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Profile of Sydney Possuelo
Considered one of the last great wilderness scouts and the leading authority on Brazil's remaining isolated Indigenous Peoples, Sydney Possuelo is a celebrated sertanista - a uniquely Brazilian occupation that combines frontiersman, ethnographer, adventurer and Indian rights activist. Starting in 1959 working with the legendary Villas Boas brothers in Xingu National Park, Possuelo has fought for Brazil's indigenous people and their environment, for more than 40 years. In 1972, he joined FUNAI, Brazil's National Indian Foundation, and led expeditions covering more than 3.000 kilometres of uncharted forest and involving first contact with seven indigenous groups. In his time as FUNAI president, he doubled the area of indigenous land, given them protected status, including the vast Yanomami reserve.
In FUNAI´s department of isolated Indigenous Peoples, which he had created, Possuelo changed FUNAI´s policies and after being testimony of the hazards raised by forced contacts he became a fierce protector of their rights to remain isolated. Despite of the opposition of corrupt politicians, drug traffickers, fishermen, loggers, miners and others Amazon explorers Possuelo has succeeded in having the Javari Valley- an area the size of Portugal - declared a reserve for its 4.000-strong indigenous population. During the First International Symposium on Isolated Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon and the Gran Chaco region, held in Belém, state of Pará - Brazil during November, 2005, co-ordinated by Possuelo, who worked for five years to bring it about, was created the International Alliance for the Protection of Isolated Indigenous Peoples to alert the governments of those countries in which isolated or in-initial-contact indigenous peoples subsist. The alliance aims to protect these peoples and their environment by recognizing precedence and primacy of the rights of isolated indigenous peoples, by creating protected natural areas for the conservation of biodiversity. It also claims for the immediate cessation or modification of all projects that may cause harm by means of deforestation, colonization, of illicit and illegal activities, and other activities currently underway or planned for the future in the territories and surroundings of isolated indigenous peoples. Due to his lifetime work Sydney Possuelo has been awarded with prizes and titles as Hero of the year (United Nations/2001), Bartolomé de Las Casas (Spain/1998), Patrons Medal of British Royal Geographic Society, Spanish Royal Geographic Society, "Hero of the Planet" by Time Kids Magazineamong others.
Possuelo was dismissed from his position as the head of the Department of Isolated Indigenous Peoples, in FUNAI, 2006, after having publicly disagreed from FUNAI President's declarations against Indigenous Peoples rights for their occupied lands.