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Rainforest Protectors to Address Jewelry Industry at the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference

The leaders of the Paiter-Surui people have a message for the jewelry industry.

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Chief Lucas, Alto Rio Negro Preserve, Rodonia

(PRESS RELEASE) CHICAGO, IL — The leaders of the Paiter-Surui people have a message for the jewelry industry: “We intend to defend the future of our indigenous land through partnerships with serious people that will help us.”

On Saturday, October 26, two Chiefs from the Brazilian region of the Amazon will address the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference. Chief Miguel (from Rodonia) will represent 1,800 people and 26 villages of the Sete de Setembro Reserve. Chief Lucas (from Amazonas) will represent the 45,000 indigenous people of the Alto Rio Negro Preserve, comprised of 23 ethnicities and four languages. Together, these leaders will speak to the jewelry industry audience about their hopes and plans for the future of their territory.

Since the first ‘official’ contact with the Paiterei in 1969, the Paiter-Surui people have thoughtfully and intentionally fostered their lands, despite tremendous challenges. They are evaluating the use of drones and Google Earth to monitor more than 8 million hectares of land, to help them maintain constant vigilance against illegal mining and logging. Chief Miguel and Chief Lucas are committed to incorporating modern ways of advancing their people, while actively preserving their language, lands, and traditional culture.

“Our people, the Paiter Surui, seek economic independence. The ability to develop forest products will empower the indigenous so that we can better protect our forests. We have the legal rights to mine the minerals in our lands, and we seek legal status and partners that can do this the right way. The forest, standing, has the greatest value, and forest products, plants, and minerals will help us protect our forest and our culture.”

The current gold, diamonds, and minerals rush in the Amazon represents opportunity for indigenous and traditional communities to gain economic empowerment. But tremendous threats from deforestation related to land-grabbing, poor farming practices, and illegal mining represent long-term threats to the Amazon, and are a contributing factor in the fires that have been raging across the Amazon this year. Add to that the challenges related to money laundering and exploitation, and it is clear that the jewelry industry must take a stand for legal, and socially and environmentally responsible practices in the materials entering our supply chains. Any industry discussion about responsible jewelry practices must include a frank examination of what is happening right now in the Amazon.

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The Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference is dedicated to creating open, honest dialog among all participants in the jewelry supply chain. This conference goes far beyond policy discussions. It creates relationships and collaborations between people who would otherwise never have the chance to meet, and fosters unprecedented problem-solving through direct engagement.

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