At the United Nations’s Rio+20 conference earlier this year, the indigenous Paiter-Suruí people of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest unveiled a unique cultural map they created in partnership with Google Earth.
The map is a remarkable example of combining traditional knowledge with modern technology and was five years in the making, including training youth to collect stories from their elders, photography and videography, and more.
Ancient Traditions for a Sustainable Future
One of the most startling things about the cultural map is seeing the clear line demarcating Suruí territory from the deforested land around it. As I explored the map, it became more and more clear that the line is held there by the will, memory, and culture of the Paiter-Suruí people.
Without the Brazilian government’s agreement to the line demarcating their territory, it’s easy to see how Suruí land would have been quickly taken for logging and other “development.”
With the technology Google Earth has brought to the partnership, the Paiter-Suruí are now able to monitor their forests and report on illegal logging activity on the edges of their territory.
In this previously unimaginable way, they protect the integrity of their ancestral home and engage the rest of the world as stakeholders in their success.
Take a Tour with the Suruí as Your Guides
If you have Google Earth installed on your computer (there’s a free version), you can download the Suruí Cultural Map in English or Portuguese (links at the bottom of this blog post) and explore on your own.
You can also watch this video tour, narrated by Suruí youth, which takes you through highlights of the Cultural Map.
Mapping Achuar Culture in Ecuador’s Amazon
Our sister organization, Fundacíon Pachamama, is partnering with the Achuar people of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest on a cultural mapping project, which got a boost this summer with the visit (and archives) of prestigious linguist Maurizio Gnerre.
Much like the partnership between Google and the Paiter-Suruí, our vision is a new way forward for the human family that recognizes and honors the life-sustaining wisdom of indigenous cultures while using modern technology in appropriate ways.
Subscribe to our email updates and be a part of this vision, from powering traditional Achuar canoes with solar energy to applying indigenous wisdom in your own life.