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  • Rozeninho Saw Munduruku and Maria Leusa Munduruku stand in front of a display detailing the work of the Ipereg Ayu Movement.

    Rozeninho Saw Munduruku and Maria Leusa Munduruku stand in front of a display detailing the work of the Ipereg Ayu Movement. | Photo: International Rivers

Indigenous leaders have been working to ensure the voice of indigenous peoples is heard at the COP21 climate talks in Paris.

The Ipereg Ayu Movement, a Brazilian movement fighting to protect its territory from a dam project, received the United Nations Development Program’s Equator Prize Monday during a ceremony held in Paris, France as part of the COP21 climate change summit.

Maria Leusa Kaba Munduruku and Rozeninho Saw Munduruku received the prize on behalf of the organization.

“We've come to the COP to bring international visibility and gather support for our struggle for our rights, our lands, and our rivers,” stated Maria Leusa Munduruku earlier this month.

Rozeninho Saw Munduruku linked their struggle to protect their lands to the encroachment of transnational companies in developing countries such as Brazil.

“While in Paris, we must also denounce the European companies who are responsible for supporting projects that destroy the Amazon," said Saw Munduruku in a press release.

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Indigenous representatives protest on the Seine river to draw attention to the plight of indigenous tribes facing climate change. | Photo: EFE

The Ipereg Ayu Movement is one of 21 organizations to receive the Equator Prize and includes a US$10,000 award. In total, 1,461 groups from 126 countries around the world were nominated.

According to the U.N. Development Program's website, the prize “recognizes outstanding local achievement in advancing sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities.”

The group said they would use the prize money to continue their struggle to protect their land from a dam project that threatens to flood their territory.

Ipereg Ayu in their local language means, “I am strong, I know how to protect myself.” In addition to their fight to promote sustainable development, the group also developed a protocol on how to best conduct free, prior and informed consent that they hope will become a model for all projects in Brazil.

Indigenous leaders throughout the world have been working to ensure the voice of indigenous people is heard at the climate talks. As part of those efforts, a flotilla headed by indigenous leaders from “the Arctic to the Amazon” floated down the Seine Sunday.

The voice of indigenous people was also buoyed by the interventions made by Bolivian President Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of the South American country who echoed calls made by indigenous leaders to transcend capitalism in order to save the planet.

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