March 9, 2012

Contacting the “uncontacted”

ashaninka_man_135_140611.jpgInfringing the rights of indigenous communities

The Amazon rainforest is home to many groups of “uncontacted” or “voluntary isolated” indigenous communities.  At the same time, however, the forests and people here are threatened by loggers, oil and mining companies, colonists looking for land for agriculture, fast new highways or freshly opened muddy forestry roads.  Even TV and tour companies have recently joined the ranks of destructive exploitation agents in the region.


The Brazilian Suruwaha tribe were recently branded by an Australian TV report as child murderers, a suicide cult from the Stone Age and the worst human rights violators in the world.  The broadcast featured ‘adventurer’ Paul Raffaele and reporter Tim Noonan visiting Brazil’s Suruwaha tribe, but has generated a storm of protests.  This new trend of exploiting indigenous groups is not restricted to the Amazon.  This week a senior policeman on the Andaman Islands, with the task of protecting the local communities, was criticised for organising human safaris and coercing local Jarawa tribe into posing for visitors.  

Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said: “it’s freakshow TV at its very worst. The Indians are made out to be cruel and inhuman monsters, in the spirit of 19th century colonialist scorn for ‘primitive savages’. It’s clearly designed to have the same effect – to suggest that they don’t deserve any rights. The idea that such nonsense is supposed to help tribal children is breathtaking.”

According to Survival, back in Peru “unscrupulous tour-guides working in the rainforests of Manu Biosphere Reserve are trying to profit from sightings of “uncontacted” tribal people who have been spotted or made their presence felt in this region several times in the last year, largely thought to be a product of logging and oil prospecting in other areas of their traditional territories.

Sources: Survival International and Huffington Post


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