Columbus Day: genocide of America's tribes continues

October 11, 2014

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Aché woman shortly after she was captured and brought out of the forest in 1972, Paraguay. In April, the Aché launched a landmark case over the genocide they suffered. © A. Kohmann/Survival

To mark Columbus Day on October 13, 2014, Survival International reveals current and recent cases of tribal peoples facing genocidal violence by outsiders on their land.

In April 2014, Paraguay’s Aché tribe launched a landmark case over the genocide they suffered during the 1950s and 60s. The Aché were decimated after colonists launched killing raids, captured tribespeople and sold them as slaves.

Brazil is home to around 100 uncontacted tribes, the most vulnerable societies on the planet. Whole populations are being wiped out by violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.

The uncontacted Kawahiva in central Brazil are facing annihilation as loggers and ranchers invade their land. After evidence suggested they were being deliberately targeted by loggers, forcing them to live constantly on the run, a public prosecutor launched an investigation into their genocide.

Survivors of the Haximú massacre, in which goldminers killed 16 Yanomami Indians, hold urns containing the ashes of their relatives. © C Zacquini/Survival

Other cases of genocide include the brutal attack on the Yanomami village of Haximú in Venezuela, near the border with Brazil, by goldminers in 1993. Sixteen Yanomami were killed, including the elderly, women and children, and four of the culprits were subsequently convicted of genocide in an unprecedented ruling.

Five Akuntsu in Rondonia state, Brazil, are the last survivors of a genocide that wiped out most of their tribe. In 1985, government investigators uncovered an entire communal house which had been bulldozed – evidence of a brutal massacre by gunmen.

The violent invasion and destruction of the rainforest of Brazil’s Awá tribe by armed loggers and ranchers has also been described as genocide by Brazilian experts. Following a high-profile campaign by Survival, the invaders were evicted from the Awá’s key territory in January 2014, but the government has so far failed to implement a permanent land protection program to stop the invaders from returning.

Awá man Karapiru witnessed the massacre of his family by outsiders, Brazil. © F Watson/Survival

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, “Industrialized societies subject tribal peoples to genocidal violence, slavery and racism so they can steal their lands, resources and labor in the name of ‘progress’ and ‘civilization’. Since the dawn of the Age of ‘Discovery’, tribal peoples have been the innocent victims of an aggressive colonization of their land. By portraying them as backward and primitive, the invaders have justified a systematic and cruel annihilation, which continues to this day. It’s time the genocide stopped.”

Note to editors:

- See Survival’s photographic gallery of tribal peoples of the Americas facing genocide

Uncontacted Indians of Brazil