Uncontacted Indians saved

January 23, 2008

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After an intensive Survival campaign, Brazil’s Indian affairs department, FUNAI, has announced that it is restricting all entry into the Rio Pardo territory, home to a tiny group of about 30 uncontacted Indians who are on the brink of extinction.

This is a major victory. If their land is now protected, the Rio Pardo Indians stand a chance of survival. FUNAI is mapping out the area before it can formally declare it an Indigenous territory.

After a judge overturned a previous order protecting the area in 2005, Survival received reports that heavily armed loggers were invading the Indians’ territory with the aim of hunting down and killing them. The territory lies close to Colniza, one of the most violent towns in the Amazon, and a base for many logging companies. Survival immediately mounted a high profile media and letter-writing campaign.

The uncontacted Indians are thought to belong to a group of tribes known as the ‘Kawahiva’. During previous investigations, FUNAI teams found hastily abandoned shelters full of food and possessions, indicating the Indians had fled in haste. As a result, a federal prosecutor has opened an investigation into the genocide of this tiny, uncontacted group.

Gilberto Azanha, an anthropologist and member of the FUNAI team studying the area said ‘If the Brazilian government guarantees the Indians proper protection, we can be certain that the population of the Kawahiva of the Rio Pardo will grow.’

Rio Pardo