Rios Profundos was created in 1996 by Dirk van Dijck with the purpose of supporting the Yanomami way of life. Since 2011, Rios Profundos has worked toward the creation of a space for the Yanomami to discuss the economy, politics and culture of the outside world. With the help of the Canadian foundation 3% Tiers-Monde, we built a school and meeting space with basic lodging facilities allowing us to host groups of up to 30 people at a site called Poraquêquará. The school is close to the mouth of the Marauiá river, one of the main tributary of the Yanomami territory situated in the region of the Middle Rio Negro (State of Amazonas, Brazil). Poraquêquará is located at the edge of the Yanomami Indigenous Territory and at two hours by boat from the main city of the region, Santa Isabel do Rio Negro. The school location makes it an ideal stop for the twelve communities (xapono in Yanomami) living along the Marauiá river and its tributaries.
We organise interdisciplinary workshops and meetings for the Yanomami community with the aim of finding solutions about the issues arising from the relatively recent contact (circa 1950). Sociopolitical themes are tackled and discussed, such as territorial management, indigenous organization, indigenous school education, as well as problematics such as alcoholism and nutrition.
The first workshop, held in February 2011, was requested by the Yanomami and intended to a first group of political agents. In view of the interest of the community, we discussed the creation of an indigenous organization. Also, we gave classes of Portuguese upon the request by the Yanomami participants who see it as an essential tool in their dealings with the outside world.
The second course, in March 2011, was dedicated to women. This gathering dealt mainly with alchoolism, a worrying social problem by Yanomami women account.
The Yanomami political representative gathered a second time, in May and June 2011, for a seminary about environmental education. Sérgio Sá of ICMBio, and environmental researcher from Chico Mendes Institute for the Conservation of the Biodiversity of the Environment Ministry, joined the event. The sujects discussed in this gathering were environmental legislation, comparative ways of living and role of production in the americo-european world. The objective of the workshop was the protection of the land and the forest from predatory economic forces.
In february 2012, a second workshop was held with Yanomami women, dedicated specifically to nutrition. With the recent introduction of money, and consequently the changing of the Yanomami diet, new diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and gastritis have appeared. The focus of the gathering was given to prevention by demonstrating the function of different foods in the body. This workshop was given in partnership with SESAI (Secretary of Indigenous Health, Health Ministry) by the nutritionist Nayla Nayane da Silva Santos.
In february 2013, Poraquêquará was the host of a gethering between representatives of the Yanomami and members of the contemporary art project Capacete (Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo), represented by a group of Brazilian and foreign artists and curators: Amilcar Packer, Helmut Batista, Lisbeth and Jos vander Bik, Christoph Keller, Mariana Malavi, and João Modê. The meeting intended to demonstrate the practicability of the Yanomami school system as opposed to the the standardised educational model of the region. Currently in practice in a majority of the xaponos along the Marwiya, Yanomami teachers have been struggling for the recognition of their educational system.
In december 2013, we had the first meeting of Yanomami teachers, where all of the educators of the Marauiá and Demini rivers gathered for the first time. This meeting was organised in partnership with SECOYA (Service and cooperation with the Yanomami Nation, NGO), involved in the training of the Yanomami teachers in the region. The aim of the meeting was the diagnosis of the Yanomami school system on the Marauiá and Demeni rivers where are living about two thousand Yanomami. We discussed strategies to tackle student’s absence, distrust of their own teachers by the Yanomami communities, lack of appropriate didacticial material and non recognition of the Yanomami school system by the municipal government of the region.
In addition to courses and meetings organised at Poraquêquará, Rios Profundos attends every events and meetings concerning to the Yanomami held by the Brazilian gouvernement and NGOs. For exemple, Indigenous School Education seminaries, Council of PARNA (National Park) Pico da Neblina (ICMBio) meetings, Yanomami Teachers Training (SECOYA), as well as, meetings held by the Yanomami themselves – Yanomami Council meetings and the Yanomami General Assembly. All the while looking at the creation of dialogue and solidarity amongst the Yanomami to tackle issues raised in their relation to governmental organisations such as FUNAI and SESAI.
In October 2013, during the last Yanomami General Assembly, in the xapono Komixiwë (Mission), attended by more than two hundred representatives of all the Marauiá river communities, we witnessed the foundation of the Yanomami Association of the Marauiá River, the Kurikama. On this occasion, Rios Profundos undertook the elaboration of workshops on political and administrative topics for its directory members. The first of such workshops on public policy was held in January 2014 and was also attended by Pico da Neblina, director of the PARNA.