In a big breakthrough for indigenous groups
in Brazil, government troops have begun to evict illegal settlers from
indigenous lands in the eastern Amazon. The Awá—which some consider “the most
threatened tribe on earth”—have seen their population reduced to about just 450
due to incursions by loggers, farmers, and ranchers.
According to The
Starting this week, non-indigenous residents will be given 40
days' notice to leave, with help provided for their resettlement.
Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, which has launched a campaign
to save the community, said the operation was a victory for the global campaign
to save the tribe.
"This is a momentous and potentially lifesaving occasion for
the Awá. Their many thousands of supporters worldwide can be proud of the
change they have helped the tribe bring about. But all eyes are now on Brazil
to ensure it completes the operation before the World Cup kicks off in June,
and protects Awá land once and for all," he said.
Action to evict the invasores
has been slow, and conflicts – including sporadic killings and arson attacks –
A Vanity Fair reporter who
recently visited the area estimated that illegal logging roads were now only a
few miles from an area where the last 100 uncontacted Awá hunt.
As an action against illegal loggers, the
environmental impact of Brazil’s move is surely to be positive. But observers
around the world concerned about preserving forests and mitigating climate
change should be even more fundamentally concerned with the survival and
thriving of the Awá.
As Survival International points out, the areas in
which Brazilian rainforest has been best preserved are the same areas in which
tribal peoples have managed to hold on. The Awá are effective stewards of the
forest due to their deep respect for it: “To them, the forest is perfection:
they cannot dream of it being developed or improved upon,” according to
Time will tell if the Awá, and their
forests, get adequate protection from the Brazilian state.
Photo: Brazilian Amazon, with tan areas of deforested agricultural land. Photo from Flickr / NASA Goddard Photo and Video