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Presidents Message

Our program to advocate for indigenous peoples affected by multilateral development banks is a cornerstone of the work at the Indian Law Resource Center. This project began in the late 1970s when the Center represented the Yanomami people of Brazil. The Yanomami lived a peaceful and self-sufficient life, with no ties to the global economy, until Brazil received money from the World Bank to build a road through their territory. The road unleashed chaos within the Yanomami communities. Road workers brought malaria and many Yanomami died because they had no resistance to the disease. The road provided access for miners and loggers to reach Yanomami territory for the first time, bringing pollution and damaging the delicate ecosystem that fed the Yanomami and provided them with medicines. For many Yanomami women, prostitution became a way to avoid starvation but often left them sick and abused. The Center worked with the Yanomami people to gain recognition and protection of the right to own and control their homeland, which culminated in an agreement with Brazil to protect and demarcate lands for the Yanomami.