Members of the tiny Awá tribe in the Brazilian Amazon will tomorrow (1 August) begin a three-day protest in response to remarks by the local mayor’s office denying that the Awá exist.
Survival International says that the Awá are one of only two nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes remaining in Brazil. They say that more than 60 Awá have no contact with outsiders and are in grave danger from illegal loggers.
The event, named ‘We Exist: Land and Life for the Awá Hunter-Gatherers’, has been organized by Brazilian indigenous rights organisation, 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. It will take place in Ze Doca, a town near the Awá’s land in Maranhão state in the eastern Amazon.
Although Awá lands have been legally recognised, they are being targeted by loggers, who are bulldozing roads into the forests, and by settlers, who hunt the game the Awá rely on, exposing them to disease and violence.
A federal judge ruled in June 2009 that the loggers and settlers must leave the Awá territory within 180 days. However, the ruling has since been suspended, and deforestation and invasions are increasing.
“Denying the existence of indigenous peoples is self-fulfilling and belongs to the colonial past,” said Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, “It’s also a crime: deny they exist and they won’t exist, they’ll disappear like so many Brazilian tribes before them.”
He added, “If Brazil wants to be viewed as a leading nation, the authorities must no longer tolerate violations like this”.