Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Megaron, a Kayapo grand chief from Brazil is pictured in Toronto's Brookfield Place on Jan. 19, 2014.

CHRIS YOUNG/The Globe and Mail

Grand Chief Megaron has faced down politicians and multi-billion-dollar corporations, but the cold of a Toronto winter is quite another thing. Even within the confines of a modern downtown office complex, he rubs his hands and covers himself with a Woolrich blanket.

"Frio. Muito frio," he begins telling his translator, Barbara Zimmerman, in Portuguese, the language many of his Kayapo people have mastered to make the concerns of their Amazon rainforest tribe known to the outside world. "We do not have cold like this where I am from."

He is willing to take on this new climatic enemy for the greater cause ingrained in every Kayapo person from an early age, a cause he encourages First Nations in Canada to follow as well: "We must fight, always fight, to protect our forest, our animals, our culture."

Story continues below advertisement

On Monday night, that fight will place him on a Toronto stage to raise money for the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC), a group that has spent more than $1.6-million protecting Kayapo territory – a patch of rainforest covering twice the area of Nova Scotia – from loggers, miners, ranchers and dam builders. In all, the Kayapo reserve includes 9,000 people in 34 villages. Spread across 11-million hectares, it's the largest tropical reserve in the world and much of the ICFC assistance focuses on monitoring the huge expanse looking for trespassers.

While Megaron and his people are considered world-wide indigenous role models for their successful defence of land and culture from modern encroachments, powerful new developments threaten to overturn life as they know it: a massive dam development on the Xingu River, the water body that forms the hub of their existence, and a proposal to overhaul sections of Brazil's 25-year-old constitution that grant indigenous people exclusive possession of traditional territories and enshrine their right to pursue traditional ways of life.

"It's a proposed constitutional amendment being pushed by big industry and big mining interests which, as in so many countries, control our government," Megaron said, wearing red face paint and a borrowed Nautica jacket. "It's really dangerous for us. These politicians weaken indigenous rights so they exploit resources on our land."

Sixty years ago, around the time a four-year-old Megaron met his first Brazilian outsider, the warrior culture of the Kayapo fostered a single approach to foreign incursions. Tribal war parties would give ranchers and gold miners a stark ultimatum: Leave or die. "We fought people invading our land and we fought among one another," said Megaron. "We were tough. We fought with violence."

But by the late 1980s, the intruders took on a corporate form that proved too big for spears or arrows. They needed a united front. By working with NGOs and banding together with neighbouring indigenous groups, the Kayapo developed the political savvy to antagonize and embarrass politicians and multi-national corporations on a mass scale.

On two occasions last year, Kayapo leaders wearing headdresses and carrying spears stormed Congress in Brazil's capital. Despite those protests, dam development and the proposed constitutional amendment continue unabated. Hence, this chilly globe-trotting.

"We have evolved from physical confrontation to trying to work with the government," Megaron said. "But often the government is absent here. More and more we need outside help."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies