Bruno Kreisky Foundation

for Human Rights

Paulinho Payakan (Brasil)

Paulinho Payakan is the chief of the Au-kre village in the Brazilian state of Para. He is the spiritual and political leader of the Kayapo people. As the only Portuguese- speaking person in the village he has been responsible for contact with the “whites” of Brazil since he was 18.

Since then he has been busy forming a relationship with the industrialized world. He has prevented the dumping of atomic waste in the holy mountains of the Indians through extensive protest. He also created a new constitution for the Indians during this time period, based upon basic rights. Payakan has been interested in international relations since a young age, and was asked to be Foreign Minister. The largest hydroelectric power site in Brazil was supposed to be built in an area that would destroy the rainforest by putting it underwater. This specific area is also where the Kayapo and other indigenous peoples live. Payakan brought this project to the public’s attention at an environmental conference. As a result the World Bank withdrew their $500,000,000 offer from Brazil, preventing the building of the dam. Brazil was displeased with this series of events, and arrested Payakan on account “conduct detrimental to the state,” and threatened with losing their territory. These occurrences, along with the murder of his friend Chico Mendes led him to start the Altamira-Meetings. These meetings began in 1989, and were the first conferences of the entire American indigenous peoples.

Paulinho Payakan was embroiled in scandal in 1992, after being charged of, and later convicted of rape. His trial brought to light many difficult issues between indigenous peoples and Brazilian citizens.
("The Indigenous Peoples of Brazil and the Onslaught of Civilization", Linda Rabben).