HARU & HAYRA KUNTANAWA
LEADERS OF THE KUNTANAWA NATION
The Kuntanawa are one of the 12 families who descended from the Pano-linguistic base and who suffered a genocide in 1911—barely surviving a massacre. They fought against the Patron-Peon capitalist system that was forced onto the people of the rainforest by colonial forces in the rubber tapping industry. The Kuntanawas—along with other traditional river communities, Riberinho Extrativista—were enslaved and forced to extract rubber. Slave owners and rubber bosses also exploited the people by forcing them to hunt for exotic rainforest animals to sell in the exotic fur trade, helping to fund colonization in the Amazon.
After this period, the Kuntanawa were able to organize and create the first Reservation of Rubber Extractors, Reserva Extrativista, in Brazil and the world, “The Alto Jurura Extractive Reserve”. Active leaders of the Kuntanawa people, and other rainforest communities, established sustainability projects for the reservation and management of the land in a way that served the purpose of sustainable use. Within several years of working on social initiatives and local and state advocacy efforts, the people of the reservation succeeded in becoming completely independent from the rubber bosses—eventually removing them from their land. After a period of time, however, the political system and economic systems in the region returned to its former exploitative efforts with the arrival of the former rubber bosses’ children, who imposed newer, harsher tactics and demands on the Kuntanawa people. As a result, the administration of the The Alto Jurura Extractive Reserve (RESEX), was forced to change their strategies in order to protect their people and the rainforest. Consequently, they invested in cattle grazing and allowed for resource extraction in the reservation in certain parts. It was only in the late 1980s that they won their freedom.
Today, the leaders of the Kuntanawa Nation, Haru and Hayra Kuntanawa, are working to restore the dignity and to reconstruct the traditions, culture, and connection with the rainforest that their ancestors once lived. Haru Kuntanawa has been an active leader for the people of the rainforest and an active world leader at the United Nations representing the Amazon. Currently, Haru and Hayra Kuntanawa—an internationally known medicine woman and doctor—have established a new system for the Indigenous and rainforest communities in their region as a way to empower the protectors of the Rainforest.