Brazil: Uncontacted people threatened by forest fire in Amazon

Fires are threatening the lives and lands of tribal people in the Amazon.
Fires are threatening the lives and lands of tribal people in the Amazon.
© Survival International

Forest fires are raging in an indigenous territory on the edge of the Brazilian Amazon, threatening to wipe out uncontacted members of the Awá tribe.

Neighboring Guajajara Indians are attempting to contain the blaze and demanding greater support from government.

Campaigners are concerned that the current wave of fires could wipe out the uncontacted Awá and are calling for urgent action.

The Awá are already under great pressure as illegal loggers are devastating their territory, which is an island of green amid a sea of deforestation.

Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples the planet. Tribes like the Awá are being wiped out by violence from outsiders, and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance. Unless their land is protected, they face catastrophe.

Among those fighting the fires are indigenous fire-fighters of the Environment Ministry’s fire prevention scheme “Prevfogo,” and members of the “Guajajara Guardians,” who live in and frequently patrol the area in an attempt to crack down on illegal logging, and protect their uncontacted neighbors who are living on the run.

Indigenous firefighters in Arariboia Indigenous territory, Brazil.
Indigenous firefighters in Arariboia Indigenous territory, Brazil.
© Guajajara

Kaw Guajajara, one of their leaders, said: “Our uncontacted relatives can’t survive without their forest… As long as we live we will fight for our forest and the uncontacted Indians.”

The Guardians’ role in protecting their forest highlights the vital role tribal peoples play in conservation, ahead of the COP23 conference in Bonn, Germany next month.

Tribal peoples like the Guajajara and Awá have been dependent on and managed their environments for millennia. Evidence proves that tribal peoples are better at looking after their environment than anyone else. They are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world.

Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, is lobbying the Brazilian government to ensure the Arariboia fires are extinguished as a matter of urgency, and that all invaders are evicted from the territory.