Indigenous peoples have been active players in the process of securing land rights and conserving about 21 percent of the Brazilian Amazon. In this article, we examine advances and contradictions in the process of “adaptive resistance” by Amazonian indigenous peoples in terms of their seeking alliances and funding from outside allies, adapting institutions and social organization, and reconstructing self-representations for securing and managing their territories. Drawing from long-term research among the Kaiabi (Tupi-Guarani) indigenous people, we compare the process of formation of indigenous leaders and indigenous political organizations among three Kaiabi groups—Xingu, Teles Pires, and Rio dos Peixes—following the relocation of the majority of Kaiabi to Xingu Park starting in the 1960s. New models of leadership emerging from interaction with other indigenous groups—from the history of the creation of Xingu Park in Brazil and from access to resources brought by the alliance between indigenous peoples and environmentalism—were important factors enabling political empowerment among the displaced Xingu Kaiabi in contrast with the other two groups. We discuss contradictions of political empowerment and strengthening of indigenous organizations in the Amazon, which may also lead to trade-offs and to the risk of dependence on outside funds and agents. Multicultural organization and alliances provide important platforms to the adaptive resistance and empowerment of diverse Amazonian indigenous peoples.

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