Tuira Kayapo, a strong woman warrior, brandished her machete and spoke forcefully of her worries for the future of her children and grandchildren. In 1989, her image circulated the world when she approached the representative of Eletrobras, José Antônio Muniz, threatening him symbolically by touching his cheeks with her machete.
Muniz appears to be scared stiff by Tuíra´s action. When asked later how he felt at the time, he said “he felt sorry” for Tuíra – definitely not the way it looked on film. Tuíra´s “curse” took effect nearly immediately, as the World Bank cancelled a $500 million loan to Brazil´s power sector and plans for damming the Xingu were shelved for a decade.
Today she is still threatening, and still angry at the idea that her culture and her livelihood will be forcibly swept away from by the Brazilian government in its thirst for electricity, in the name of Progress.
The indigenous outcry resulted in the plan dying out, but 20 years later, in 2008, the colonists once again gathered to push forth the dam-building project. When the [colonist] speech was finished, a group of indigenous women and warriors rushed the stage, brandishing machetes and war clubs. The apologist for genocide was shoved to the ground and poked with a machete,
An engineer from Electrobras, Paulo Fernando Rezende, presented his new analysis of the benefits and impacts on communities and the environment as a result of the construction of the Belo Monte dam.
In response, Tuira Kayapo stood up, walked over to Mr. Rezende waving her machete and gave him a piece of her mind. Immediately following, the room cheered, Indigenous leaders began chanting and then all got up and headed towards Mr. Rezende to give him a piece of their collective and unified mind and presence. They were angry and not going to let Mr. Rezende or Electrobras leave without knowing that they were going to resist the building of this and any other dam on their traditional territories.
They were clear that they will defend their lives, culture and their environment until the end. It was an amazing show of force and unity among the Indigenous people of the Xingu river basin, people who haven’t always gotten along. Surrounded by hundreds of Indigenous people and the media, Mr. Rezende was knocked to the floor and suffered some machete wounds sending him to the hospital.