Laura Clarke is an International Relations graduate living in London. She enjoys writing, talking and, thankfully, quite likes rain too.
Genocide in the Making
Survival International, with support from the likes of Colin Firth, will this week launch a campaign to protect Brazil’s indigenous Awa tribe. With just 355 members, illegal logging in the Amazon is threatening this population with extinction, leading Brazilian judge Jose Carlos do Vale Medeira to proclaim the situation “a real genocide.”
Demands for iron ore extraction have led to an influx of settlers into the area, causing both a destruction of Awa land and the introduction of numerous diseases to which the Awa have no immunity. The violence with which Awa resistance is met is the subject of huge concern, with reports of murder and massacre of the Awa by land-grabbers. Survival International’s research director, Fiona Watson, has pointed to the urgency of the threat: “It is not just the destruction of the land; it is the violence. I have talked to Awa people who have survived massacres. I have interviewed Awa who have seen their families shot in front of them. There are immensely powerful people against them. The land-grabbers use pistoleros to clear the land. If this is not stopped now, these people could be wiped out. This is extinction taking place before our eyes.”
Behind support for programmes that threaten indigenous tribes is a narrative of progress; the belief that mineral extraction or deforestation will help tribes to adapt and modernise. As is the case with the Awa, however, these post-colonial presumptions amount to little more than systematic extinction of a population.
International concern for indigenous survival is growing. While the cause of many tribes continues to go unrepresented, Survival International’s new campaign may make it possible to save the Awa from annihilation.