NGO raises awareness to protect uncontacted Amazon tribe

  1. President-elect Jair Bolsonaro plans to reduce or eliminate protection to endangered communities
  2. Tribes are being attacked and exterminated to steal their lands and resources

Global movement for indigenous peoples Survival International launched a campaign to start the process of territorial demarcation for the Kawahiva, a Brazilian indigenous tribe that decided not to come into contact with the outside world.

Thanks to the support of Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance and supporters in over 100 countries, on 19 April 2016 the country’s minister of justice Eugênio Aragão signed the initial decree to pass the bill creating the tribe’s protected territory into a law.

However, newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro has pledged not to protect any more indigenous territories in his government.

Survival International fears that if the Kawahiva reserve is not fully protected before he takes office, the demarcation process will never be completed, as protecting their land effectively is the only way to ensure that their right to decide not to come into contact with the outside world is respected.

Brazilian authorities have completed a rare field operation to protect the uncontacted Kawahiva from violent breeders in the state of Mato Grosso, the Amazon region with the highest illegal deforestation rate in the country.

However, if the phases of the tribal land protection process are not completed as soon as possible, it is possible that the territory will never be secured.

To evict illegal farmers — many of whom are armed — from the indigenous territory of the Kawahiva, known as Rio Pardo, Brazil’s Department for Indigenous Affairs (Funai) agents, Ministry of Environment’s special officials and police troops were sent.

The operation took place between 7th and 14th December, 2018.

The Kawahiva territory is located near the city of Colniza, one of the most violent areas of Brazil. 90% of Colniza’s income comes from illegal logging. The Kawahiva are nomadic hunter-gatherers, forced to live on the run to save themselves from the invasion of their forest.

The last members of the tribe are the survivors of criminal violence of invaders who wanted to exploit the natural resources of the area. It is probable that the tribe avoids contact with the dominant society precisely because of these attacks and for fear of diseases imported from outside.

The Kawahiva became known in October 2015, when Survival International released the film of a fortuitous meeting with some members of the tribe reclaimed by Funai, images that still remain some of the most surprising ever recorded of an uncontacted ethnic group.

In the following years, Colniza’s advisors have put pressure on the Minister of Justice to drastically reduce the extension of the native Rio Pardo territory, and thus allow the arrival of new loggers, farmers and soy growers. But now, two years after the signing of the decree, the authorities have finally evicted the invaders, also following the wave of requests coordinated by Survival.

Jair Candor, head of the Funai team protecting the Kawahiva territory, said: “I’m very happy, it’s a dream. We have worked hard and we are finally reaping the benefits. It is important for people to know that we are not the only human beings on this planet, there are also the Kawahiva and other uncontacted tribes there, living in their forest. We must protect their forests. It’s the only way to allow them to survive.”

“This operation demonstrates that public mobilization campaigns can make a real difference in the struggle to stop the genocide of uncontacted peoples,” said Survival International director Stephen Corry.

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