Amazon Indigenous Woman among Environment Prize Winners

24 April 2023

Alessandra Korap, a Munduruku Indigenous woman from the Brazilian Amazon, has been awarded a 2023 Goldman Environmental Prize.

The respected award honors six activists from six continents who work on grassroots efforts to help the environment. The prize was established in 1989. The Goldman Prize defines grassroots leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen involvement.

Korap is a member of the Munduruku people of the Amazon rain forest. She saw roads, farms and cities coming closer to her village throughout the 1980s. The settlers, loggers and miners posed a threat to the 14,000 Munduruku people, who lived along the Tapajos River.

Munduruku leader Alessandra Korap poses at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, Wednesday, April 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Munduruku leader Alessandra Korap poses at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, Wednesday, April 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

She and other women worked to organize protests against the outsiders. They presented information to the Brazilian government about illegal agreements that gave the developers access to native land.

The work led to the Brazilian government creating a protected area in the rain forest.

Korap's work earned the Goldman Prize on Monday. She said the prize, which comes with a monetary award, will "draw attention" to the protected rainforest area, which is her group's "top priority, along with the expulsion of illegal miners."

In Brazil, there continue to be problems defending native land from miners. Some, however, hope that will change with the work of the country's Ministry of Indigenous Peoples.

But Korap is still concerned that Brazil's economy depends on exports such as beef and soybeans that require more and more land. She says the new president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks about protecting land but he also negotiates economic agreements with other nations.

Other prize winners are:

  • Tero Mustonen, a university professor and activist in Finland. Mustonen led a group to purchase a piece of land damaged by industrial activity.
  • Delima Silalahi, a Batak woman from North Sumatra, Indonesia. She organized native groups to fight for their rights to protect forests.
  • Chilekwa Mumba, an organizer from Zambia who helped people from an area hurt by copper mining.
  • Zafer Kizilkaya of Turkey, a conservationist and photographer who worked to create the first community-managed protected area in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Diane Wilson, an American shrimp boat captain who won a legal case against a plastics company who discharged plastic waste into the Gulf of Mexico in Texas.

I'm Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by the Associated Press.


Words in This Story

grassroots –adj. something small or at a very local level

positive –adj. for the benefit of many, something good

logger –n. a person who earns money by cutting trees and selling the wood

pose –v. to present or to make known

access –n. a place of entry

priority –n. something that is important

expulsion –n. the act of sending someone or something away