Astonishing video of uncontacted Indians released as loggers close in

This uncontacted Awá mans name is not known. But his rainforest has been destroyed around him, and just one small island of forest is now left. Loggers are now moving in. © Mídia Índia

This uncontacted Awá mans name is not known. But his rainforest has been destroyed around him, and just one small island of forest is now left. Loggers are now moving in. © Mídia Índia
© Mídia Índia

Extraordinary new footage showing some of the most threatened uncontacted Indians in the world has been released by an indigenous group in Brazil.

The video, showing uncontacted members of the Awá tribe in Maranhao state, eastern Brazil, was filmed by a neighboring tribe, the Guajajara, who are trying to protect the islands of rainforest in which the Awá live.

The forest in the area is being rapidly destroyed, and Guajajara groups regularly patrol the forests to monitor incursions and evict loggers. Many of them have faced death threats, and some have been killed, as a result.

Olimpio Guajajara, Coordinator of the Guardians of the Amazon, said: “We Guardians are defending our people’s rights, defending the uncontacted Indians, and defending nature for all of us. Three of our Guardians have been assassinated. We need the land to be protected for good.”

Arariboia indigenous territory is an island of green surrounded by deforestation ©Google Earth

Arariboia indigenous territory is an island of green surrounded by deforestation ©Google Earth
© Google Maps

The Awá have frequently experienced attacks at the hands of loggers. Most have now been contacted, but some are known to live uncontacted in the last significant areas of forest remaining. The Guajajara saw them while out hunting, and this video provides proof of their existence.

Under President Bolsonaro, loggers and ranchers have been emboldened to increase their assault on indigenous lands. Logging is now rampant in the territory, and loggers’ camps have been spotted close to the uncontacted Awá.

Karapiru Awá saw his entire family massacred by karai (non-indigenous people). He escaped and lived on his own for 10 years. Eventually he was reunited with his son, who had survived the attack. ©F Watson/Survival

Karapiru Awá saw his entire family massacred by karai (non-indigenous people). He escaped and lived on his own for 10 years. Eventually he was reunited with his son, who had survived the attack. ©F Watson/Survival
© F Watson/Survival

As part of Survival International’s uncontacted tribes campaign, Survival works with the Guardians and supports their protection of the rainforest.

Flay Guajajara of Mídia Índia, who took the footage, said today: “We hope this film produces something positive. We hope it makes an impact around the world to help protect our people and our forest.”

Survival International Director Stephen Corry said today: “This video is further proof that the uncontacted Awá people really exist. And a glance at a satellite photo shows just how much danger they’re in. Loggers have already killed many of their relatives and forced others out of the forest. President Bolsonaro and his friends in the logging industry would like nothing more than for those who still survive to be eliminated. Only a global outcry stands between them and genocide.”

Notes to Editors: The footage is being released by Mídia Índia, an indigenous film-making association. It was shown on Brazil’s Globo TV last night, and features in a soon-to-be-released documentary, “Ka’a Zar Ukize Wá – Forest Keepers in Danger,” by Mídia Índia in collaboration with Instituto Catitu and other partners. The 13-minute short film is a call to action for the perilous situation of the uncontacted Awá people who live in the Arariboia Indigenous Territory with their relatives the Guajajara. It will be released on Jul 23, at Unibes Cultural in São Paulo, to close ISA’s “25 years of Socio-Environmental Cinema” event.

Erisvan Guajajara of Mídia Índia says:

“We didn’t have the Awá’s permission to film, but we know that it’s important to use these images because if we don’t show them around the world, the Awá will be killed by loggers. We need to show that the Awá exist and their lives are at risk. We’re using these images as a cry for help and we’re calling for the government to protect the lives of our relatives who don’t want contact with outsiders.”