'Protect uncontacted tribe's land!' say local groups

A Totobiegosode family immediately following first contact with the outside world in 2004.
A Totobiegosode family immediately following first contact with the outside world in 2004.
© GAT 2004

A desperate plea for the protection of uncontacted Indians’ land in western Paraguay has been issued by nine local organisations after round-table talks sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme.

‘The presence of the uncontacted Totobiegosode (in the forest) is proof that it is, and always has been, their land,’ says a statement from the nine organisations. ‘The invasion of that land by a company and its deforestation and destruction constitutes an aggression against the tribe and the appropriation of their property.

‘The Paraguayan state, in accordance with the national constitution and international norms. . . must meet its obligation to return the Totobiegosode’s land to them in one piece, not in fragments,’ the statement says.

The Totobiegosode’s land is being destroyed by two Brazilian companies wanting to graze cattle for beef: Yaguarete Pora and River Plate. The number of uncontacted Totobiegosode is unknown, but some of them have relatives who have already been contacted.

These Totobiegosode have been trying to protect the last substantial part of their territory since 1993 when they filed a legal claim for 5,500 square kilometres.

The nine local organisations include OPIT (the organization of those Totobiegosode who have already been contacted) and GAT, a local support group.

Survival director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘The government must heed the demands of the Totobiegosode and the local organisations working in their support. It must recognise the Totobiegosode as the legal owners of their land and ensure the Brazilian companies can’t work there.’