Nomad tribe emerges from forest to prove its existence

July 29, 2010

Karapiru, an Awá man who survived the massacre of his family by gunmen.

Karapiru, an Awá man who survived the massacre of his family by gunmen. © Fiona Watson/Survival

This page was created in 2010 and may contain language which is now outdated.

Indians from the tiny Awá tribe will stage a three day protest in the Brazilian Amazon from August 1st to 3rd, to prove that they exist and to demand that their land be protected from invasion.

The event, named ‘We Exist: Land and Life for the Awá Hunter-Gatherers’, has been organized by Brazilian Indigenous rights organization, CIMI, the local Catholic church and several Indigenous groups.

Around 100 Awá Indians are expected to participate in the protest. For most, it will be the first time they have left their forest home.

The protest will take place in Ze Doca, a town near the Awá’s land in Maranhão state in the eastern Amazon. It is in response to remarks by the local mayor’s office denying that the Awá exist.

The Awá are one of only two nomadic hunter gatherers tribes remaining in Brazil. More than 60 Awá have no contact with outsiders and are in grave danger from illegal loggers.

Although Awá lands have been legally recognized, the Indians are being targeted by loggers, who are bulldozing roads into the forests, and by settlers, who hunt the game the Awá rely on, exposing the Indians to disease and violence.

A federal judge ruled in June 2009 that all invaders must leave the Awá territory within 180 days. However, the ruling has since been suspended, and deforestation and invasions are increasing.

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival, said today, ‘Denying the existence of Indigenous peoples is self-fulfilling and belongs to the colonial past. It’s also a crime: deny they exist and they won’t exist, they’ll disappear like so many Brazilian tribes before them. If Brazil wants to be viewed as a leading nation, the authorities must no longer tolerate violations like this.’

Survival’s Research and Field Director Fiona Watson, who has visited the Awá, is available for interview.




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