Organizations denounce Peru government’s failure to protect uncontacted tribes

March 9, 2017

The Matsés have denounced oil exploration in the proposed Yavarí Tapiche reserve, which is part of their ancestral lands. © Survival International

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In an open letter to the Peruvian authorities, Survival International, Rainforest Foundation Norway and Peruvian Indigenous organization ORPIO have denounced the Peruvian government’s failure to protect uncontacted tribes.

The organizations are calling for the government to create an Indigenous reserve, known as Yavari-Tapiche, for uncontacted tribes along the Peru-Brazil border, and to put a stop to outsiders entering the territory.

In the letter the three organizations state: “Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. They have made the decision to be isolated and this must be respected…

“The Yavarí Tapiche region is home to uncontacted peoples. Despite knowing of their existence and enormous vulnerability, the government has failed to guarantee their protection…

“These tribal peoples face catastrophe unless their land is protected. Only by creating the proposed Yavarí Tapiche Indigenous reserve and implementing effective protection mechanisms that prevent the entry of outsiders, will the Indigenous people be given the chance to determine their own futures…

“We are also concerned about the government’s refusal to exclude oil exploration within the proposed reserve…. No exploration or exploitation of oil should ever be carried out on territories inhabited by uncontacted Indians…

“We believe that the oil company Pacific Stratus is poised to begin operations this year in areas where there are uncontacted tribes…

“By failing to both create the reserve and to rule out oil exploration, Peru is violating both domestic and international law…

“If the government does not act urgently to protect the uncontacted peoples of Yavarí Tapiche, we fear that they will not survive. Another tribe will disappear from the face of the earth, before the eyes of the world.”

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “We’ve repeatedly called for the Yavarí-Tapiche Indigenous reserve to be created and for oil exploration to be ruled out, but the government has dragged its feet. The lives of uncontacted Indians are on the line but once again, economic interests take priority.”

Background Briefing

- The Yavarí Tapiche region is part of the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier. This area straddles the borders of Peru and Brazil and is home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else in the world.
- Pacific Stratus, part of Canadian oil company Pacific E&P, began its first phase of oil exploration in 2012, despite protests from Indigenous organizations and Survival International. It is believed that the company will begin its second phase soon.
- Oil exploration is devastating for uncontacted tribes. Over 50% of the Nahua tribe died as a result of exploration in the 80s.
- The Indigenous organization ORPIO is suing the government over the threat of oil exploration.
- National Indigenous organization AIDESEP has been calling for the creation of the reserve for over 14 years.

The Uncontacted Frontier