Chaco Indians left without land

October 20, 2000

This page was created in 2000 and may contain language which is now outdated.

The Enxet and Ayoreo Indians live in the scrubby forest called the Chaco. The land of the 16,000 Enxet is occupied by huge cattle ranches, on which the Indians live at the ranch-owners' mercy. Some of them work on the ranches, in appalling conditions; the rest subsist through hunting and gathering, but access to their land is controlled by the rich land-owner.

The 2,000 Ayoreo live on land belonging to two religious groups; Mennonites and the American New Tribes Mission. Conditions in both these places is still very poor.

The Ayoreo and Enxet have submitted land claims to the government for small parts of their territory.

In 1994 the European Commission proposed a project called 'Sustainable Development in the Paraguayan Chaco'. Although it was supposed to benefit the Chaco's Indians, they were barely consulted. After lobbying by Survival and the Enxet, the project was made conditional on the Indians' land claims first being resolved. But although only one out of 47 claims has actually been resolved, the Commission pushed the project through. Today most of the Indians still have no land, but many consultants and government officials have grown rich from the European funds.