An image being circulated claims to show Raoni Metuktire, also known as Chief Raoni of the Kayapo people, crying at the approval of a dam which would be a “death sentence for all the tribes in the area.”
The story dates from 2011 but Chief Raoni has said he was not crying because of the dam.
There is an ongoing battle between the Kayapo tribe and development of the Belo Monte dam. This photo was first circulated on major news websites and blogs in mid-2011. It was often accompanied by a caption, such as:
Chief Raoni cries when he learns that Brazilian president, Dilma, released the beginning of construction of the hydroelectric plant of Belo Monte…
…or as the Washington Post reported: “Chief Raoni weeps after hearing that the Belo Monte dam will be built.”
In 2013 the photo is being circulated via email and social media with a longer story which reads:
Subject: THIS IMAGE SHOULD BE SEEN IN THE WHOLE WORLD
While magazines and TV chains report about the lives and love affairs of movie actors and actresses, football players and other celebrities, the Chief of the Kayapo tribe heard the worst news of his entire life:
Mrs. Dilma, the president of Brazil, has given her approval for the construction of an enormous hydroelectric central (the world’s third largest one) to generate electricity for aluminum and iron ore smelters.
This means the death sentence for ALL the tribes living at the shores of the river because the barrage will flood more or less 400 000 hectares of the forest.
More than 40 000 natives will have to find other living surroundings where they will be able to survive.
The destruction of the natural habitat, the deforestation and the disappearance of several species of plants and animals will be a fait accompli.
We know that a simple image is the equivalent of a thousand words, it shows the price to be paid for the “quality of life” of our so-called “modern comforts.”
There is no space in the world anymore for those who live differently. Everything has to be smoothed away, that everyone, in the name of globalization must lose his and her identity and way of living.
If this enrages you, I urge and implore you to forward this message to all your friends, relatives and acquaintances.
Thank you in the name of life, nature and biodiversity.
A few weeks after the news story was circulated in 2011, however, Amazon Watch reported that the caption was mislabeled. They reported that the reason Chief Raoni was crying was not related to his campaign against the building of the dam. He was merely crying because he had been reunited with a family member.
The Kayapo protested in the town of Colider. While many people have seen the photo of Chief Raoni crying, he was not crying in reaction to the Brazilian government’s announcement of the license to build the Belo Monte Dam. He was crying because he had reunited with a family member, a common practice among the Kayapo.
“I was not crying because of the government’s decision,” confirmed Raoni. “I’m going to keep fighting. I am alive and strong, and as long as I’m alive I will continue to fight for my people!”
It has also been reported that Chief Raoni’s reaction was not of sadness, but of anger, as echoed in the quote above.