TEN years after Brazilian authorities released extraordinary footage showing the existence of an uncontacted Amazonian tribe, their lands have still not been fully protected and they are surrounded by loggers and land-grabbers.

In 2013 Brazil’s Indigenous Affairs Department (FUNAI) released video that they had filmed during a chance encounter with the Kawahiva people of Mato Grosso state, deep in the Amazon.

A global campaign by Survival International, alongside Indigenous people, pressured the authorities to act, and in 2018 cattle ranchers and loggers who had occupied the Kawahiva territory were evicted.

But since then the land protection process has stalled – loggers and landgrabbers are surrounding their territory, and an illegal road has been built just two kilometres away. A FUNAI team at a protection post nearby have been working to keep the loggers and ranchers out, despite the dangers – their post has been attacked several times.

Massacres and disease have already killed many Kawahiva – the only chance of survival for those who remain is if their territory is finally demarcated (legally recognised and marked out).

The government has already been given two deadlines to finish demarcating the Kawahiva territory: in 2013 – the year the video was first released – a Brazilian court ordered the demarcation to be carried out. Ten years on, this still has not happened, and in August of this year, Brazil’s Supreme Court gave FUNAI 60 days to finalise a plan for the definitive demarcation of the territory.

Eliane Xunakalo of Indigenous organisation FEPOIMT (Federation of Indigenous peoples and organisations of Mato Grosso) said: “It’s vital to finish the demarcation for our uncontacted relatives. The ‘Kawahiva do Rio Pardo’ territory is coveted by outsiders, and it’s also extremely dangerous for the FUNAI employees who work on the protection post there. We will only be able to guarantee the survival of our uncontacted relatives if the territory is demarcated.

“It’s up to us to protect our relatives, to protect their way of life, because they are the resistance and resilience in the midst of all these threats and challenges that exist here in Mato Grosso”, she added.

The head of Survival Brasil, Sarah Shenker, said: “This is one of the most crucial cases concerning uncontacted tribes anywhere in Brazil. The Kawahiva are survivors of countless genocidal attacks which have wiped out many of them; the land demarcation process has ground to a halt; and loggers and landgrabbers see the territory as open for business. We know that they have been active inside the Kawahiva’s forest, and any encounter between the Kawahiva and these outsiders, who are usually armed, could be deadly. The authorities must act now to finish the job, and legally protect the Kawahiva territory once and for all.”

* View the video of the uncontacted Kawahiva people here.

* Source: Survival International