The founder of Amazon Planet Gert-Peter Bruch said the leader died at a hospital in the northern locality of Redençao, in the state of Para, Brazil after 19 days of having caught the coronavirus, adding that he "worked all his life to build worldwide alliances around indigenous peoples to save the Amazon. He was far ahead of his time. We've lost an extremely valuable guide."
Paiakan, leader of the Kayapo people, was best-known as the guardian of the Amazon, after heading several fights to protect the rainforest against the exploitation of its natural resources.
In 1980, the Indigenous chief lead a fight against the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on the Xingu River in the Amazon.
To prevent the company from damaging the rainforest and its communities, he forged alliances with other Indigenous groups, international activists and celebrity backers, and was a lead organizer of the Altamira gathering, a 1989 conference that rallied opposition to the project.
Bepkororoti, conhecido como Paulinho Paiakan, batalhou bravamente pelo seu povo e contra a exploração do território Kayapó até sua morte, por #Covid19! Decisivo, soube articular como poucos lutas sociais e ambientais. Segue o fio! ✊�� �� Edilson Rodrigues / Agência Senado pic.twitter.com/ayIfkARQ7W
"Bepkororoti, best known as Paulinho Paiakan fought bravely for his people and against the exploitation of the Kayapo land until his death of COVID-19. He was decisive, he articulated like few the social and environmental fights."
The influence of the movement echoed to the World Bank to withdraw funding for Belo Monte. However, a modified version of the project went ahead in 2011.
Paiakan and other community leaders fought the battle to include the Indigenous people's right to land in Brazil's 1988 constitution.
He also fought to expel illegal miners and loggers from Indigenous areas and often criticized Brazi's President Jair Bolsonaro about the intention to expose the Amazon rainforest to massive agricultural infrastructure and mining.
The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) described Paiakan as a "father, leader and warrior" for Indigenous peoples and the environment.
In Brazil, the mortality rate of indigenous people is double that of the rest of the country's population, according to APIB which tracks the number of cases and deaths among the country's 900,000 indigenous people.