When word came from the jungles of the Amazon basin in August that Yanomami Indians had been massacred by Brazilian miners, the international outrage was not unexpected. What came as a surprise to some was that environmental organizations were at the forefront of the U.S. response.
"We have always been concerned about how people are affected by the environment, and about the relationship between human rights abuses and environmental devastation," Stephen Mills of the Sierra Club told Sojourners. "The Yanomami and other indigenous people have a right to their land."
The Sierra Club was one of several environmental and human rights groups that were convened by the National Wildlife Federation in a series of protests and meetings at the Brazilian embassy in Washington, D.C. At the first meeting following the massacre, Stephen M. Tollberg of the Indian Law Resource Center told embassy officials that "the human rights of Yanomamis and other indigenous peoples is rightfully a concern of the whole world."
Jim Rice is editor of Sojourners. Jill Lafferty assisted with research.