Actor Mark Rylance fronts battle to save the last of the Kawahiva Indians

October 7, 2015

The last of the Kawahiva are forced to live on the run from armed loggers and powerful ranchers (image taken during a chance encounter with Brazilian government agents). © FUNAI

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Ahead of Columbus Day on October 12, actor Mark Rylance and Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, have launched a new campaign to save the Kawahiva – a small uncontacted hunter-gatherer tribe in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

The Kawahiva are one of the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. Their forest is being invaded by armed loggers, miners and powerful ranchers – in a region of Brazil’s Mato Grosso state known for its violence, rampant illegal logging and land grabs.

The uncontacted Indians are forced to live constantly on the run from invaders. Many of their relatives have been killed in genocidal attacks. The Kawahiva have demonstrated their wish to remain uncontacted. Their right to choose not to make contact must be respected.

In a moving video containing unique footage of the Kawahiva – filmed by government agents during a rare chance encounter with the tribe – Mark Rylance says, “If the Kawahiva’s land is not protected, they will disappear forever. But if Brazil’s government acts fast, they can survive.”

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Rylance added today, “We must not let another part of humanity’s rich diversity fade into history. If the world acts now, we can secure a future for the Kawahiva.”

Like all uncontacted tribes, the Kawahiva face catastrophe unless their land is protected. They could be wiped out by violence from outsiders who are stealing their land and resources, and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.

A Brazilian government official said, “The loggers will wipe out the Indians.”

Award-winning actor Mark Rylance recording the narration for The Last of the Kawahiva. © Survival International, 2015

According to Brazil’s constitution, the Kawahiva’s land should have been mapped and protected as an Indigenous territory by 1993. The decree authorizing this has been on the Minister of Justice’s desk since 2013, but he has not signed it.

Survival’s campaign, involving hundreds of thousands of supporters worldwide, calls on the Minister to sign the papers as a matter of urgency, to give the Kawahiva a future.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, “If the public cannot persuade the Justice Minister to act, and fast, the Kawahiva will be annihilated, and he will bear witness to the needless extinction of yet another tribe. This cannot be allowed to happen. The continued survival of the Kawahiva enriches all of us. Not only because they represent a unique interpretation of what it means to be human, but because defending their land rights also protects the future of the Amazon. If we can protect their forest for them, they will protect nature, for us all.”

Notes to editors:

- Olivier and Tony award-winning actor Mark Rylance is available for limited interviews. Contact [email protected]
- Read more about the Kawahiva tribe