News from Survival International News items about tribal peoples from across the world http://www.survivalinternational.org/news.rss Undercover TV report exposes mass evictions from India's tiger reserves Canal Plus has exposed the illegal eviction of villagers such as Jatiya from Kanha Tiger Reserve in the name of conservation.
Canal Plus has exposed the illegal eviction of villagers such as Jatiya from Kanha Tiger Reserve in the name of conservation.
© Canal Plus, 2015

A special undercover investigation by French TV channel Canal Plus has exposed the illegal eviction of thousands of tribal people from Kanha Tiger Reserve in the name of conservation, while more than a hundred thousand tourists are welcomed in every year.

A TV reporter visited families of the Baiga tribe who were evicted from Kanha – home of the “Jungle Book” – in 2014, and found that their lives were devastated after being forced from their homes against their will. The tribespeople have been struggling to survive after being scattered in surrounding villages.

Sukhdev, a Baiga man, was killed after his village was evicted from Kanha in 2014. His body was found after he attempted to buy land for his family.

Interviewed by Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, in 2012, Sukhdev had said: “We won’t find another place like this. How will we set up home there? How will we raise our children? We need our fields and homes … Won’t we die?”

Tribal families evicted for “tiger conservation” Moving first-hand accounts by the residents of Jholar village in Kanha tiger reserve, who have now been evicted (filmed in 2012)

Sukhdev’s brother told Canal Plus: “We were one of the last families to resist. But the people from the reserve forced us to leave. They told us they’d take care of us for three years, but they didn’t do a thing. Even when my brother was killed, no one came to help us.”

Studies have found that tigers thrive in areas inhabited by people. And while the Baiga have lived alongside the tiger for generations and regard the animal as their “little brother,” Kanha’s mass tourism has been called “incompatible and detrimental” to conserving the species by a top conservation official.

The TV crew gained access to a confidential official report which lists the systematic resettlement of 22,000 people from tiger reserves across the region. Under Indian law, tribal peoples’ consent is required before such evictions, but they are often harassed into leaving.

After his village was evicted from Kanha Tiger Reserve in 2014, Baiga man Sukhdev was killed after attempting to buy land for his family.
After his village was evicted from Kanha Tiger Reserve in 2014, Baiga man Sukhdev was killed after attempting to buy land for his family.
© Survival International, 2012

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has been supplying infrastructural support, training and equipment for frontline staff in Kanha. In an interview with Canal Plus, a WWF India director refused to condemn the evictions.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, “So-called ‘conservation’ continues to destroy tribal peoples as it has for generations. They’ve never threatened the tigers, who would do better if the tribes remained and the tourists stopped. Tribal peoples are generally better conservationists anyway than industrial-sized NGOs like WWF which stand by in silence while the parks forcibly evict people like Sukhdev and his family. It’s time these evictions are stopped and this scandal exposed.”

- Watch the full investigative report on Canal Plus here (from minute 37):

- Download an unofficial English translation of the transcript (pdf, 100 KB)

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Wed, 22 Jul 2015 04:15:00 +0100 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10852 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10852
Pope apologizes for Catholic church’s crimes against indigenous peoples A Guarani representative told the Pope his people are dying as they struggle for their land rights.
A Guarani representative told the Pope his people are dying as they struggle for their land rights.
© Survival International

Pope Francis has asked forgiveness from the indigenous peoples of Latin America for the many crimes committed by the Catholic church during the “so-called conquest.”

In an historic speech to the “World Meeting of the Popular Movements” in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, which was attended by many indigenous people, he said:

“I want to tell you, and I want to be very clear: I humbly ask your forgiveness, not only for the offenses committed by the Church herself, but also for the crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.”

The conquest and the theft of their land led to the genocide of millions of indigenous people who were killed by invaders or died of introduced diseases to which they had no resistance.

He acknowledged the depth of suffering by indigenous peoples: “I say this to you with regret: Many grave sins were committed against the native people of America in the name of God.”

He also spoke of his “deep affection and appreciation” for the Latin American indigenous movement’s “quest for a multiculturalism which combines the defense of the rights of the native peoples with respect for the territorial integrity of states … [which] is for all of us a source of enrichment and encouragement.”

Guarani spokesman Eliseu Lopes met the Pope during his visit and said: “He listened to me, something which the president and those who govern Brazil have never done and refuse to do, even though they know our situation … I told him that we are living through a war, that we are dying and that we are being massacred by armed gunmen and by the politicians involved in agri-business, that a real genocide is happening to us. I asked for a future for our young and old people.”

Watch a Tribal Voice video direct from the Apy Ka’y Guarani community:

The Pope spent a week visiting Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, where indigenous peoples are battling to protect their lands and natural resources against governments and corporations intent on imposing large-scale development projects on them.

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Wed, 15 Jul 2015 12:58:00 +0100 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10845 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10845
Amazon Indians demand: 'Respect our right to remain uncontacted' Crossed spears found on a path in northern Peru. Crossed spears are a common sign used by uncontacted Indians to warn outsiders to stay away.
Crossed spears found on a path in northern Peru. Crossed spears are a common sign used by uncontacted Indians to warn outsiders to stay away.
© Marek Wolodzko/AIDESEP

Amazon Indian organizations have labeled calls by two US anthropologists to forcibly contact uncontacted tribes as “arrogant” and “irresponsible.”

Peru’s main Amazon Indian organization AIDESEP, as well several smaller Amazonian indigenous groups, released a statement in response to a recent editorial in Science magazine by US anthropologists Robert Walker and Kim Hill.

The anthropologists claim that uncontacted tribes are “unviable” and that governments are violating their responsibility to protect isolated tribes if they “refuse authorized, well-planned contacts.” Currently, international and Peruvian laws guarantee uncontacted tribes the right to reject contact with mainstream society.

In an open letter, the organizations wrote, “The way of life that we as indigenous peoples choose to live is a decision that we ourselves make, and one which the State and society has to respect. National and international laws grant us the right to maintain our cultures and make decisions over our present and future lives.

“We reject any call or act that seeks to impose a way of life that is rejected by our brothers in isolation and initial contact.”

There are more than a hundred uncontacted tribes around the world, all face catastrophe unless their land is protected.

In Peru, five reserves have been created to protect the lands and lives of uncontacted tribes. A further five areas are known to be inhabited by uncontacted tribes, but the government has been slow to protect them.

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, recently wrote in US journal Truth Out, “It’s time to stand in resistance against those who just can’t abide that there are some who choose a different path to ours, who don’t subscribe to our values, and who don’t make us richer unless we steal their land.”

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Fri, 10 Jul 2015 11:00:00 +0100 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10842 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10842
Defending tribes' right to remain uncontacted Uncontacted Indians in Amazonia make their views clear.
Uncontacted Indians in Amazonia make their views clear.
© G. Miranda/FUNAI/Survival, 2008

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, has attacked the argument in a recent Science editorial that uncontacted tribes should be forcibly contacted.

U.S. anthropologists Robert Walker and Kim Hill argued that governments are violating their responsibility to protect isolated tribes if they “refuse authorized, well-planned contacts.” But Corry evokes Brazil’s experience of forced contact missions, which was official policy for decades but led to the decimation of countless tribes.

Sydney Possuelo, former head of Brazil’s indigenous affairs department FUNAI, recounts, “I believed it’d be possible to make contact with no pain or deaths, I organized one of the best equipped fronts that FUNAI ever had. I prepared everything… I set up a system with doctors and nurses. I stocked with medicines to combat the epidemics which always follow. I had vehicles, a helicopter, radios and experienced personnel. ‘I won’t let a single Indian die,’ I thought. And the contact came, the diseases arrived, the Indians died.”

Stephen Corry further refutes Walker and Hill’s claims that uncontacted tribes are unlikely to be “viable”; that “soon after peaceful contact… surviving indigenous populations rebound quickly from population crashes”; and that they are unlikely to “choose isolation if they had full information.”

Corry asks, “What tribe would abandon isolation if it could first study Pine Ridge or the Guarani, and if it knew that many of its children would die as a result? There are plenty of contacted tribes who do know what happens and respond by striving to protect isolated relatives from contact.”

Jakarewyj Awá (left), contacted in December 2014, critically ill in spite of the staffed medical post nearby.
Jakarewyj Awá (left), contacted in December 2014, critically ill in spite of the staffed medical post nearby.
© Survival International, 2015

An Awá man from Brazil’s northeastern Amazon said, “When I lived in the forest, I had a good life. Now, if I meet one of the uncontacted… I’ll say, ‘Don’t leave… there’s nothing in the outside for you.’” Two out of three recently contacted Awá fell critically ill after being forced out of their forest home in December 2014.

Corry argues that the key to stopping the annihilation of tribal peoples in South America is protecting their land rights – which are enshrined in national and international law. All uncontacted tribal peoples face catastrophe unless their lands are protected.

“It’s time to stand in resistance against those who just can’t abide that there are some who choose a different path to ours, who don’t subscribe to our values, and who don’t make us richer unless we steal their land,” Corry writes in U.S. journal Truthout.

Watch Survival’s short film documenting tribal peoples’ experiences of first contact:


Stranger in the ForestFirst Contact in the Amazon: Tribes of Brazil recall their experiences of contact and the dangers that followed.

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Mon, 06 Jul 2015 12:52:20 +0100 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10839 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10839
Brazil: Gunmen set fire to Indian community Smoke rises in the distance as Kurusu Mba community burns.
Smoke rises in the distance as Kurusu Mba community burns.
© Reprodução/TV Morena, 2015

Gunmen have attacked and set ablaze a Guarani Indian community in south west Brazil.

Initial reports indicated that a one year old baby had burned to death when the gunmen torched the Indians’ houses on June 24, but this has not subsequently been confirmed.

The Guarani fled the area, and two girls and one boy are reported to be missing.

The Indians of Kurusu Mba community peacefully re-occupied part of their ancestral land on June 22, having waited many years for it to be returned to them.

They were soon surrounded by gunmen who, according to one Guarani man, “fired shots above our heads.” The ranchers and farmers who now occupy almost all Guarani land frequently employ armed men to terrorize the Indians.

A Guarani spokesman said they occupied their land because
“We can no longer bear living with pesticides, hunger and waiting for the government [to act].”

Many Guarani are being subjected to brutal and intolerable attacks as they wait in vain for the authorities to recognize their land rights.

Kurusu Mba has suffered many violent attacks in the past. Kurete Lopes, a 70 year old religious leader, was murdered by gunmen in 2007, as was another leader, Ortiz Lopes. Another man, Osvaldo Lopes, was murdered in 2009.

The community is hemmed in by soya plantations. Intensive pesticide spraying pollutes the streams the Indians use for drinking water.


Watch three film clips recorded by Guarani who are appealing for international pressure on the Brazilian government to recognize their rights:

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Fri, 26 Jun 2015 11:38:00 +0100 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10832 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10832
Spanish construction giant targeted over uncontacted Indians' land grab Protestors demanded 'Save the Ayoreo' at the annual shareholder meeting of Spanish company Grupo San José.
Protestors demanded 'Save the Ayoreo' at the annual shareholder meeting of Spanish company Grupo San José.
© Victoria Herranz/Survival, 2015

Protestors demanded “Save the Ayoreo” at the annual shareholder meeting of Spanish construction giant Grupo San José in Madrid today. The company has been implicated in the destruction of the uncontacted tribe’s last forest refuge.

Grupo San José’s subsidiary Carlos Casado SA, a South American agricultural firm, was caught illegally bulldozing and constructing roads and reservoirs on the ancestral land of uncontacted Ayoreo Indians in the Chaco forest in Paraguay. The company has also allegedly attempted to forge Ayoreo signatures for the construction of an access road through the tribe’s territory.

Most Ayoreo have been forced out of the Chaco – which has the world’s highest deforestation rate – but some of their relatives remain hiding in an ever-shrinking island of forest. They are one of the most vulnerable societies on the planet, who could be wiped out by violence from outsiders and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.

Ayoreo man Porai Picanerai said, “I ask Grupo San José to give us back our land, because if they chop down our forest, our brothers who remain there will be scared.”

Members of the Paraguayan Ayoreo-Totobiegosode group on the day they were contacted for the first time, in 2004.
Members of the Paraguayan Ayoreo-Totobiegosode group on the day they were contacted for the first time, in 2004.
© GAT 2004

Another Ayoreo said, “I am very worried about this destruction because we don’t know where exactly the people still in the forest are living. This is why we don’t want the outsiders to destroy more of the forest with their bulldozers.”

The Ayoreo have been claiming legal title to a fraction of their ancestral land for over 20 years, but much of it is owned by powerful ranching companies. Like many recently contacted Indians, the contacted Ayoreo are succumbing to respiratory diseases contracted from outsiders that often go undetected in medical tests.

Protestors handed leaflets to shareholders attending Grupo San José's annual general meeting in Madrid.
Protestors handed leaflets to shareholders attending Grupo San José's annual general meeting in Madrid.
© Victoria Herranz/Survival

Survival International is calling on Grupo San José’s shareholders, such as Santander, to withdraw from the company over its involvement in the destruction of the Ayoreo’s last forest refuge.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, “Forced contact has brought disease, death and destruction to tribes across the Americas, and the Ayoreo are a textbook example of the danger involved. Today, contacted Ayoreo are dying from diseases to which they have no immunity, and while their forest keeps being felled their uncontacted relatives face the same sorry fate. If Grupo San José cared one bit about the lives of Indians it would return the land to its rightful owners.”

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Wed, 24 Jun 2015 14:17:05 +0100 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10823 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10823
Pope Francis calls for protection of tribal peoples and their lands Pope Francis has acknowledged indigenous peoples' crucial role in conservation of their lands.
Pope Francis has acknowledged indigenous peoples' crucial role in conservation of their lands.
© Fiona Watson/Survival 2010

In an encyclical about climate change that has received widespread media attention, Pope Francis has acknowledged indigenous peoples’ strong connection to their lands and their role in conservation.

In "On care for our common home," Pope Francis wrote: “It is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed.

“For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values.

“When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. Nevertheless, in various parts of the world, pressure is being put on them to abandon their homelands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture.”

The Pope further stressed that indigenous peoples should be listened to when it comes to tackling environmental problems: “Ecology, then, also involves protecting the cultural treasures of humanity in the broadest sense. More specifically, it calls for greater attention to local cultures when studying environmental problems, favouring a dialogue between scientific-technical language and the language of the people.”

In the letter, the Pope criticized governments’ failure to protect indigenous peoples’ territories or to consult them over developments that will affect them. He called for actions from “local individuals and groups” to hold governments to account.

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Tue, 23 Jun 2015 13:03:54 +0100 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10826 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10826
Venezuelan tribes protest against violent mining gangs The Hoti in Venezuela and other Amazon Indians depend on the forest for their survival. But their forests are being destroyed by illegal mining (photograph taken in 2014).
The Hoti in Venezuela and other Amazon Indians depend on the forest for their survival. But their forests are being destroyed by illegal mining (photograph taken in 2014).
© Eglée Zent/Survival

Venezuelan Indians blocked the landing strip of Canaima National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in protest at illegal miners destroying their lives and lands.

Over the last decade, illegal mining for gold, diamonds and other minerals – some run by armed gangs claiming to be members of Colombia’s guerrilla army FARC – has spread like wildfire through the Venezuelan Amazon, affecting tribes such as the Yanomami, Hoti, Eñepa, Yekuana and Arekuna.

An Arekuna spokesperson told Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, “Mining is a huge problem in our indigenous territories. The miners are extracting the riches of our land and the earth is crying out for help. Our rivers are drying up because of the mining. We must look after nature; if we don’t, the whole planet will suffer.”

Rivers are being contaminated with poisonous mercury used in gold mining, which is entering the Indians’ food and water supply and devastating their health. In some indigenous communities, the infiltration of gangs has led to prostitution and alcoholism.

Illegal mining has ravaged the lands of Amazon Indians in Venezuela.
Illegal mining has ravaged the lands of Amazon Indians in Venezuela.
© Valentina Quintero

A study found that the majority of indigenous women living along the Caura river in the Amazon had levels of mercury above internationally accepted standards. It also found that one in three women showed a high risk that their newborn children would suffer neurological disorders.

The Indians have denounced the Venezuelan military for failing to tackle the illegal mining and for “creating a climate of terror and fear.” Some officers are known to be involved in the illegal gold trade.

While Venezuela’s constitution recognizes indigenous peoples’ rights to their ancestral lands, few have received official title to their territories and the government has announced it will open up large parts of the Amazon rainforest – including Indian land – to legal mining.

Tribal peoples are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world, yet their lands, resources and labor are stolen by industrialized societies in the name of "progress" and “civilization.”

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Thu, 18 Jun 2015 11:05:00 +0100 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10819 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10819
'Deadly' trans-Amazon railway sparks fear among tribes The proposed railway through the Amazon rainforest is likely to devastate the lands of uncontacted tribes through industrial exploitation, illegal logging and mining. 
The proposed railway through the Amazon rainforest is likely to devastate the lands of uncontacted tribes through industrial exploitation, illegal logging and mining. 
© G. Miranda/FUNAI/Survival, 2008

A controversial mega-project to build a transcontinental railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific has caused outrage among indigenous people and Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights.

The railway, which is backed by the Chinese government, would cross through many indigenous territories and areas of high biodiversity across the Amazon rainforest in Peru and Brazil. If realized, it would wreak havoc on indigenous peoples’ lands and lives by opening up the area to industrial exploitation, illegal mining and logging, and encourage colonization.

Ninawá Kaxinawá, an indigenous leader whose community lives near the proposed railway line, told Survival, “This railway is evil and it threatens our people. For us Indians and our uncontacted relatives this project represents a deadly danger which would put an end to our forest and our lives!”

Uncontacted tribes, the most vulnerable societies on the planet, would face devastation from invasions into their lands. Whole populations could be wiped out by violence from outsiders and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.

Similar projects set a chilling precedent. In the 1980s, the 900 km Carajás railway line in Brazil’s north-eastern Amazon opened up the land of many tribes such as the isolated Awá, Earth’s most threatened tribe, to illegal loggers, cattle ranchers and settlers. Countless families were massacred and others succumbed to diseases brought in by outsiders, and rampant logging resulted in over 30% deforestation in the Awá’s central territory.

Decades later, illegal loggers still threaten the lives of uncontacted Awá. In December 2014, a group of three Awá were forced out of their forest home by loggers. Two of them are now critically ill.

The massive Carajás railway line bordering the land of the Awá tribe brought illegal settlers into their land.
The massive Carajás railway line bordering the land of the Awá tribe brought illegal settlers into their land.
© CIMI/Survival

The trans-Amazon railway will run over thousands of kilometers and is likely to cause even more devastation of the Amazon rainforest and its peoples. While studies show that tribal peoples are the best conservationists, their lands are facing an onslaught of development projects.

Survival International is calling on the Brazilian and Peruvian governments to uphold national and international laws, which require that indigenous peoples must be properly consulted and give their consent before projects that will affect them can go ahead. Because consultation with uncontacted tribes is impossible, their land must be protected to avoid catastrophe.

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival, said, “Projects like this amount to nothing more than the theft of tribal lands and – as always – they’re carried out in the name of ‘progress’ and ‘development.’ For centuries, the Indians of the Americas have been sacrificed at the altar of profit. Many don’t survive the onslaught against their lives and lands. Make no mistake – for uncontacted tribes this railroad is genocidal.”

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Tue, 16 Jun 2015 09:56:00 +0100 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10812 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10812
Reports surface of 'massacre' of Hamar tribespeople in Ethiopia Hamar family outside their home in Ethiopia's Lower Omo Valley
Hamar family outside their home in Ethiopia's Lower Omo Valley
© Magda Rakita/Survival

Survival International has received reports that violent conflict between Ethiopian soldiers and Hamar pastoralists has left dozens dead.
 
The Hamar, like the other tribes of the Lower Omo Valley, are victims of the government’s policy of “villagization.”
 
They are being evicted to roadside villages without their consent, and their ancestral grazing lands are being sold off to investors for commercial plantations.

These land grabs have already led to starvation in some parts of the Lower Omo Valley.
 
Tensions have been rising as a result of these evictions and, at the end of May, Hamar were reportedly attacked by soldiers with mortars and semi-automatic weapons.
 
A news blackout imposed by the government makes it impossible to know the exact number of casualties, but one expert has referred to what took place as a “massacre.”

Hamar children, Omo Valley
Hamar children, Omo Valley
© Survival

Some observers have also linked the violence to the failure of the government to investigate the alleged rape of Hamar girls by local government officials, and to the prosecution of Hamar men for hunting on their ancestral homelands.
 
For several years, evictions have been accompanied by other serious human rights abuses in the Lower Omo Valley, including beatings, rape and arbitrary arrest.
 
One Hamar refugee told Survival, “The government told us that if we don’t give in to them we will be slaughtered in public like goats.”

In response to Survival’s campaign, international donors to Ethiopia visited the region in August 2014. However, they have yet to release the reports from their investigation, despite formal requests by Survival to the European Union and the UK and US governments to do so.
 
Reports indicate that the soldiers are still in the Lower Omo and are now threatening the Mursi and Bodi, the Hamar’s neighbors, with violence. According to one indigenous person currently in the region, “They say they will kill us. We are now crying a lot. Crying to ourselves.”

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Fri, 05 Jun 2015 11:18:00 +0100 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10802 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10802
Survival International attacks Science editorial as 'dangerous and misleading' Anthropologists have been attacked for endorsing contact with highly vulnerable uncontacted tribes, which they deem 'not viable in the long term.'
Anthropologists have been attacked for endorsing contact with highly vulnerable uncontacted tribes, which they deem 'not viable in the long term.'
© G. Miranda/FUNAI/Survival

An editorial in Science magazine which calls for isolated tribes to be contacted for their own benefit has been slated as “dangerous and misleading” by Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights.

The authors, Professors Robert S. Walker and Kim R. Hill, maintain that “a well-designed contact can be quite safe,” but the examples of contact they choose to illustrate their point were in fact catastrophic, and left many of the tribespeople dead.

The idea that contact with such tribes will end happily as long as there are adequate safeguards is dangerously naive. Brazil has more expertise in this area than any other country, yet right now two recently contacted Awá women are critically ill with tuberculosis because they were left for months without proper healthcare after contact occurred.

Jakarewyj and her sister Amakaria were forced to make contact with outsiders in December 2014. They are now critically ill with tuberculosis due to the failure of the Brazilian authorities to provide adequate healthcare.
Jakarewyj and her sister Amakaria were forced to make contact with outsiders in December 2014. They are now critically ill with tuberculosis due to the failure of the Brazilian authorities to provide adequate healthcare.
© Survival International, 2015

Walker and Hill have also decided that isolated populations are "not viable in the long term.” At the same time, they acknowledge that there are about 50 such peoples in South America (in fact, there are more). Quite how these peoples aren’t “viable” isn’t explained, as many of them appear to be thriving.

The anthropologists’ statement would certainly come as news to perhaps the most isolated tribe in the world, the Sentinelese of the Indian Ocean, who have lived on their island for at least 15,000 years, and are visibly both “viable” and healthy.

From what can be seen from a distance, the Sentinelese islanders are clearly extremely healthy and thriving, in marked contrast to the Great Andamanese tribes, on nearby islands, to whom the British attempted to bring ‘civilization.’
From what can be seen from a distance, the Sentinelese islanders are clearly extremely healthy and thriving, in marked contrast to the Great Andamanese tribes, on nearby islands, to whom the British attempted to bring ‘civilization.’
© Indian Coastguard/Survival

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, “Walker and Hill play straight into the hands of those who want to open Amazonia up for resource extraction and ‘investment.’ That they claim this is for tribes’ own benefit is dangerous and misleading nonsense.

“Perhaps their most offensive justification for forcibly contacting isolated tribes is that ‘surviving indigenous populations rebound quickly from population crashes.’ The casual tone with which the authors dismiss the deaths of scores of men, women and children is deeply disturbing.

“Let there be no doubt: isolated tribes are perfectly viable, as long as their lands are protected. To think we have the right to invade their territories and make contact with them, whether they want it or not, with all the likely consequences, is pernicious and arrogant. The decision as to whether to make contact or not has to be one for the people themselves, not for outsiders who think they know what’s in the Indians’ best interests.”

A Guajajara Indian man fighting to protect the territory of his neighbors the Awá said: “It is simple: the uncontacted Awá need their forest. This is their home and nobody has the right to take it away from them, or to remove them from it. Without their land, our uncontacted relatives will not survive.”

And Wamaxua, a recently contacted Awá man, told Survival: “When I lived in the forest, I had a good life. Now, if I meet one of the uncontacted Awá in the forest, I’ll say: ‘Don’t leave! Stay in the forest… There’s nothing in the outside for you.’”

Notes to editors:

- Watch videos and read more about uncontacted tribes on Survival’s dedicated website www.uncontactedtribes.org

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Thu, 04 Jun 2015 19:10:55 +0100 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10800 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10800
Survival reveals top tribal conservation skills for Environment Day Awá man making arrows, Brazil. The Awá have an intimate knowledge of their rainforest and are extremely skilled hunters.
Awá man making arrows, Brazil. The Awá have an intimate knowledge of their rainforest and are extremely skilled hunters.
© Survival International

In celebration of Environment Day on Friday, June 5, Survival showcases tribal peoples’ fascinating conservation skills and intimate knowledge of their environments.

- Awá Indians in Brazil’s north-eastern Amazon rainforest know at least 275 useful plants, and at least 31 species of honey-producing bee. Each bee type is associated with another rainforest animal like the tortoise or the tapir. Read more.

- Baka “Pygmies” of Central Africa eat 14 kinds of wild honey and more than 10 types of wild yam. By leaving part of the root intact in the soil, the Baka spread pockets of wild yams – a favorite food of elephants and wild boar – throughout the forest. Read more.

A Bushman mother and child gathering berries in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
A Bushman mother and child gathering berries in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
© Philippe Clotuche/Survival

- The Bushmen consume over 150 species of plant and their diet is high in vitamins and nutrients. Yet Africa’s last hunting Bushmen in Botswana are abused, tortured and arrested when found hunting to feed their families. Read more.

- Baiga in India have set up their own project to “save the forest from the forest department” – setting out rules for their own community and outsiders to protect the forest and its biodiversity. As a result, the availability of water supply has increased and they have been able to collect more herbs and medicines from the forest. Read more.

A Baiga woman overlooking her tribe's forest. Thousands of Baiga have been evicted from their land in the name of tiger 'conservation.'
A Baiga woman overlooking her tribe's forest. Thousands of Baiga have been evicted from their land in the name of tiger 'conservation.'
© Harshit Charles/ Survival

There are many more examples of how tribal peoples are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world – satellite images and academic studies have shown that indigenous peoples provide a vital barrier to deforestation of their lands. Yet tribal peoples are being illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands in the name of “conservation.” It’s often wrongly claimed that their lands are wildernesses even though tribal peoples have been dependent on, and managed, them for millennia.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, “Tribal peoples are better at looking after their environments than anyone else – after all, they have been dependent on, and managed, them for millennia. If conservation is actually going to start working, conservationists need to ask tribal peoples what help they need to protect their land, listen to them, and then be prepared to back them up as much as possible. A major change in thinking about conservation is now urgently required.”

Notes to editors:

- View a photo gallery of tribal conservation skills.
- Environmentalists, academics, indigenous organizations and thousands of Survival supporters have called for a new approach to conservation, one that respects tribal peoples’ rights. 
- "Pygmy” is an umbrella term commonly used to refer to the hunter-gatherer peoples of the Congo Basin and elsewhere in Central Africa. The word is considered pejorative and avoided by some tribespeople, but used by others as a convenient and easily recognized way of describing themselves. Read more.

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Thu, 04 Jun 2015 09:00:00 +0100 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10794 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10794