Photo Essay

People of the Big Water

Create your library

Sign up or log in to save your favorite stories and lessons, create custom collections, and share with others.

Deep in Brazil's Amazon Rainforest, on a tributary of the mighty Xingu, live the Xikrin, the "People of the Big Water." "Everything we need, we have here," says Ngrenhkarati, a Xikrin woman. “For food we can fish, harvest manioc, and hunt.” The Xikrin live a subsistence lifestyle within their villages and depend on the river as a supplier of food, the primary mode of transportation, and a tie to their ancestors.

However, this way of life is coming under threat. A few miles away on the Big Bend of the Xingu River, construction of the world's third-largest dam is peaking this year. As the dam nears completion, the Xikrin have already seen a negative impact on fish populations, and scientists warn of a lowered water table that could dry out this area of the river. The Xikrin, whose lives, history, traditions, values, and practices depend on the river, have not been given proper consultation under the law and are fighting an uphill battle against the construction of the dam.

More to Explore

Photo Essay
Kara Women Speak
This photo essay by Jane Baldwin records stories of indigenous women living in the communities of the Omo River Valley, Ethiopia.
Create your library

Sign up or log in to save your favorite stories and lessons, create custom collections, and share with others.

Article
On the Big Bend of the Xingu River
Writer Nina Wegner travels to Altamira, Brazil, and talks to the fishermen who are struggling for their livelihoods. The world's third-largest dam, the Belo …
Create your library

Sign up or log in to save your favorite stories and lessons, create custom collections, and share with others.

Article
Rivers and Stories
In this essay, Pulitzer prize-winning poet Robert Hass brings our attention to the cultural history and health of rivers around the world.
Create your library

Sign up or log in to save your favorite stories and lessons, create custom collections, and share with others.

Watch Anytime, Anywhere

Watch our films on your phone, tablet, or connected TV.