Published: April 2, 2018
Dean Anaya in Brazil
CU delegation in Brazil
Dean Anaya in Brazil

A University of Colorado Boulder delegation comprised of University of Colorado Law School Dean S. James Anaya, Colleen Scanlan Lyons of the Governors' Climate and Forests Task Force, Professor of Civil Engineering Bernard Amadei, and Assistant Professor Pete Newton of the Environmental Studies Program paid a visit to the indigenous Puyanawa people in Acre, Brazil last month. The trip was part of a collaboration between the University of Colorado Boulder, the government of the Brazilian state of Acre, and the Federal University of Acre.

Located in the Juruá Valley in the Amazon rainforest, the Puyanawa people have a long history of struggle and resistance. Like many peoples of Acre, they suffered heavily from the boom in rubber extraction in the region at the start of the 20th century. After being expelled from their lands and forced to work in the rubber plantations, the Puyanawa were missionized and educated in schools that suppressed expression of their culture. In the 1990s, they began the process of demarcating their traditional land and restoring their culture, language, and customs that had been stripped away over the years.

Today there are around 647 living indigenous Puyanawa people. Their strength, perseverance, and organization piqued the interest of Dean Anaya, an expert in the areas of international human rights and issues concerning indigenous peoples.

The CU delegation spent a day in the Ipiranga village meeting with village members and leaders, led by Chief Joel Puyawana.

“It is amazing to see how the [Puyanawa people] have restored their culture in recent years after they lived a history of oppression. They are to be commended for the resilience and determination, and we commend the government for the support it gives to this and other communities. This support that has helped achieve results, as we could see here,” Anaya said.

The trip was part of a broader collaboration between the University of Colorado Boulder, the government of the Brazilian state of Acre, and the Federal University of Acre. In January 2017, Dean Anaya and Governor of Acre Tião Viana announced an institutional partnership between the two schools.

Of the recent visit to Acre, Anaya said, "Our interest is to learn first. I believe we have much to learn from this experience here in Acre. We want to share knowledge and experiences that enrich us all. We believe that this exchange of information can benefit both the population of Acre, its government, and us too.”

About the Partnership
The CU Boulder-Acre Partnership is a project of the Laboratory for Energy and Environmental Policy (LEEP), a policy innovation lab based at CU Boulder. The partnership focuses on bi-directional education and exchange to promote learning across cultural, geographical, and disciplinary boundaries and to draw from both expertise across academic departments at CU Boulder and colleagues and practitioners in Acre. The LEEP lab is also actively developing research projects in Acre that explore connections between Acre’s state environmental policies and sustainable livelihood development and intersections between forest conservation strategies and public health. These research agendas unite policy analysts and academics in Acre with natural and social scientists from CU Boulder, focusing on interdisciplinary approaches to real-world problem solving. Learn more about the partnership here.