The Krenak people live on the Krenak Indigenous Land, in the municipality of Resplendor, Minas Gerais on the left bank of the River Doce. They also live in other areas. Since settling this region, they have suffered many violations. These conflicts have been caused by different activities, including the construction of dams, hydroelectric plants, waterways, highways, railroads, airports, and seaport terminals and complexes. Conflict has also resulted from public policies and environmental legislation that affects their rights.
Among the activities with the greatest impact on the people, are two large projects near their lands: Vale S.A.’s Vitória-Minas Railway, and Aliança Energia’s Aimorés hydroelectric plant. They have both had profound negative effects on the lives of the Krenak, changing their living conditions, particularly their cultural production. On top of this came the breach of the Fundão dam, in Mariana, Minas Gerais, on 5 November 2015. It belongs to Samarco Mineração S.A., which is controlled by Vale S.A. and by BHP Billiton. This event greatly affected the lives of Indigenous people. In their eyes, the Watu River – Doce River, which means sweet river in the Krenak language – was killed. This made it impossible to exercise their cultural practices and to draw their survival from the river.
The dam’s rupture caused numerous socio-environmental impacts. These include alterations to the production cycle of fauna, changes in the traditional pattern of land use and occupation, and the silting of water resources. On 15 November 2015, after the dam burst, the Krenak blocked the Vitória-Minas Railway, denouncing the abandonment of the Indigenous people and the companies’ neglect regarding the effects of the disaster on their lives. At the time, they protested that they had no water to drink or prepare food.
ALVES, Cida; SANTOS, Wagner. 2016. Após a lama, tribo Krenak deixou de fazer rituais e festas no Rio Doce. In: G1. São Paulo, 28 out. Available at: http://g1.globo.com/espirito-santo/desastre-ambiental-no-rio-doce/noticia/2016/10/apos-lama-tribo-krenak-deixou-de-fazer-rituais-e-festas-no-rio-doce.html. Accessed: 10 Oct. 2019.
INSTITUTO SOCIOAMBIENTAL. 2016. “Não foi um acidente”, diz Ailton Krenak sobre a tragédia de Mariana. São Paulo, 9 nov. Available at: https://www.socioambiental.org/pt-br/noticias-socioambientais/nao-foi-um-acidente-diz-ailton-krenak-sobre-a-tragedia-de-mariana. Accessed: 10 Oct. 2019.
UNIVERSIDADE FEDERAL DE MINAS GERAIS. 2019. Mesmo depois de 3 anos da tragédia de Mariana indígenas buscam reparação de dano. Belo Horizonte, 22 fev. Available at: https://ufmg.br/comunicacao/noticias/mesmo-depois-de-3-anos-da-tragedia-de-mariana-indigenas-buscam-reparacao-de-danos. Accessed: 10 Oct. 2019.