In an unprecedented victory in the campaign to save Earth’s most threatened tribe, the Brazilian government has announced that all invaders have now been removed from the Awá indigenous territory in the eastern Amazon rainforest.
The news comes exactly two years after Survival International and Hollywood star Colin Firth launched a high-profile international campaign to save the Awá from extinction – setting a new record in the history of Survival and its efforts to protect the land of indigenous tribes.
Under unprecedented international pressure, the Brazilian government sent a ground squad of hundreds of agents to remove illegal cattle ranchers and loggers from the land of the Awá in January 2014. After an overflight of the area last week, the Public Prosecutor and Judge working on the case handed the Awá an official document confirming that all non-Indians have now been removed from their territory.
The Awá’s land retains some of the last remaining patches of rainforest in the eastern Amazon, despite illegal loggers having destroyed over 30 per cent of the forest in the Awá territory.
Brazilian experts had warned that the Awá, one of the last nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes in the Amazon, faced extinction if no action was taken. Around 100 Awá remain uncontacted and are particularly vulnerable to diseases brought in by outsiders, which could decimate them.
The Awá had made numerous desperate appeals to remove the invaders, many of whom were armed, with a history of violent attacks against the Indians.
One Awá man said, "We can’t hunt… we don’t bring back any food. The loggers have been here for a long time… we’ve been telling people that the loggers are here, and their chainsaws, machinery and trucks are screaming."
Nixiwaka Yawanawá, an Amazon Indian in London, said, "This important victory has come about because of Survival International’s tireless campaign to protect the forests and the lives of my brothers and sisters, and the pressure of the international community on the Brazilian government to protect the indigenous peoples’ lands according to the Brazilian constitution. We thank all supporters who have shown us solidarity in this fight for life."