A tribe of 300 hunter-gatherer nomads is fleeing from bulldozers in the Brazilian Amazon as their last forest is rapidly destroyed, Survival International reports. Around sixty members of the Awá tribe have no contact with outsiders. Survival International has launched an urgent campaign for the protection of the Awá, with one group of illegal loggers said to be only three kilometers form their community.
The Awá have long been under attack by loggers, ranchers and settlers. In the 1970s, the World Bank funded a huge iron ore mine and railway in the region, bringing an influx of settlers. More than two thirds of the Awá contacted by the government in this period died. Many Awá today are survivors of brutal massacres. One man, Karapiru, wandered the forest alone for ten years after his family were killed, believing that he was the only Awá left. He was reunited with other Awá in 1988.
The Brazilian government has legally recognized the Awá’s land in the state of Maranhão, but is failing to protect its boundaries. Survival campaigner Fiona Watson, who has visited some of the contacted Awá, said, “The Awá are formidable hunters and expert gatherers, but they need every inch of their forest to provide for themselves. Against all odds, they have survived into the 21st century, but unless the government acts fast they may not see the century out.”
From Survival International, Feb. 4