'Forest Citizens' Want to Be Heard

THE indigenous peoples of Brazil are organizing their own contribution to ECO '92, the United Nations environmental conference which will take place in Rio de Janeiro next June.Marcos Terena, a member of the Terena tribe from southern Brazil, attended an ECO '92 preparatory meeting in Geneva recently. "We will recommend five minutes [at the conference] for indigenous peoples," he says, "to speak on the question of the environmental damage that white men are doing in different parts of the world, mainly the Amazon...." The Indians feel they should be given intellectual property rights, or patents, for the contributions they have made to civilization. "Rubber was indigenous knowledge," Terena says. "Then the [white] rubber tappers came, and then the British began to plant it. And the Indians never had a right to [the profits]." Terena says he hopes to obtain funding so that about 600 Amerindians can come to Rio two weeks before ECO '92 begins. They will build a village in a forest outside the city to promote their ways of life. "We want to be treated as citizens of the forest," he says.

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