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The Kawahiva

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In the Brazilian Amazon, the uncontacted Kawahiva Indigenous people are fighting for their survival.

The Kawahiva depend completely on their forest. They hunt wild game including peccaries, monkeys and birds, they fish in the streams and they build shelters known as “tapiris” as they move from one part of the forest to the next. They gather fruits, nuts and berries and build intricate ladders up trees to collect honey from bees’ nests.

But invasions of their territory force the surviving Kawahiva to live on the run, fleeing violence from loggers and ranchers. Attacks and disease have already killed their relatives, in one of the most violent regions of Brazil. These are the Last of the Kawahiva, and their genocide will be complete unless their land is protected.

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Neighboring Indigenous peoples have known about the Kawahiva’s presence in the region for many decades, but it was only in 1999 that their existence was confirmed officially: a crucial step in the process of mapping out the land for the Kawahiva’s exclusive use, as is ordered by Brazil’s Constitution.

For decades, Survival has been campaigning for the Kawahiva’s territory to be fully recognized so they can not only survive but thrive, and live in the way they choose.

Kawahiva: Their survival is under constant threat

In 2005, loggers and local politicians persuaded a judge to overturn a court ruling that protected the territory from encroachment. Survival and others campaigned successfully to have it reinstated.

In 2013, Brazil’s Indigenous Affairs Department (FUNAI) released unique video footage that they had filmed during a chance encounter with the Kawahiva. Logging in and around the territory was rife.

Campaigning alongside Indigenous organizations and other allies, Survival pushed the authorities to act, and in 2016, following pressure from thousands of people around the world, the Justice Ministry took a very important step and declared the Kawahiva’s forest an Indigenous Territory. In 2018, cattle ranchers and loggers who had been occupying the Kawahiva territory were evicted.

But since then, the land protection process has stalled in the face of fierce opposition by politicians and agribusiness. Loggers and land-grabbers are surrounding the territory, and an illegal road has been built just 2km away. 

Survival, together with FEPOIMT (the Federation of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of Mato Grosso), COIAB (the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon), OPI (the Observatory for the Human Rights of Uncontacted and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples) and OPAN (Operation Native Amazon), is campaigning for the land demarcation process to be completed, and the Kawahiva’s land protected for good.

Act now to support the Kawahiva

  • Send an email to the Brazilian authorities pushing them to finalize the demarcation of the Kawahiva territory.
  • Donate to Survival so we can continue to educate, research, campaign, lobby and protest against the annihilation of the Kawahiva and other threatened tribes worldwide.

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