Peru: government discovers evidence of “uncontacted” tribe

Peru’s Indigenous Affairs Department, INDEPA, has discovered evidence of an uncontacted tribe in a remote region of the Amazon. The evidence, including 38 abandoned fishing huts, fires, and food remains, was collected during a visit to the Las Piedras River in Madre de Dios region by an INDEPA team in mid-August. Peru’s President Alan García has denied the existence of such tribes, saying they have been “invented” by environmentalists opposed to oil exploration.

INDEPA’s president, Mayta Cápac Alatrista, called it “one of the most important discoveries in recent years,” although the existence of uncontacted tribes in that region of Peru is already well-known. A number of people, including a Survival International researcher and others from the local indigenous organization FENAMAD, have visited the region and collected a great deal of evidence, including video footage, proving the tribes’ existence.

INDEPA estimates the number of uncontacted people who had been living in the huts to be between 130 and 150. The tribe, often known as the Mashco-Piro, is nomadic and one of an estimated 15 uncontacted indigenous groups in Peru.

Survival International is lobbying INDEPA, García and Peru’s government to recognize the existence of all Peru’s uncontacted tribes, grant them land rights, and respect their wish to live without contact. (Survival International, Sept. 17)

Meanwhile, Survival International has awarded its 2009 “Certificate of Racism” to the Lima daily Correo, which ran a commentary in its June 13 edition calling Peru’s indigenous peoples “savages” and “paleolithic,” and suggesting they be bombed with napalm.

See our last posts on Peru and regional struggles for the Amazon.

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