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  • Awa tribe member in northern Brazil

    Awa tribe member in northern Brazil | Photo: FLAY GUAJAJARA - MIDIA INDIA HANDOUT, via Reuters

Published 23 July 2019
Opinion

A video with rare footage of Brazil’s nearly-uncontacted Awa tribe indicates that loggers and miners are nearing their traditional hunting ground.

A video with rare footage of Brazil’s nearly-uncontacted Awa tribe has emerged, filmed by Indigenous activists who say loggers who are nearing the Awa’s traditional hunting ground.

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The video was taken in the northern state of Maranhão and shows a man holding a large knife in the rainforest. He holds up the blade to his face before looking towards the person filming, then dodging from the camera. There are traces of spears amongst trees and bushes in the forest, indicating other Awa tribe members were also present during the encounter.

The footage was taken by documentary filmmaker, Flay Guajajara in August 2018. He’s a member of the nearby Guajajara tribe that also lives in the Amazon, and who, along with two other Guajajara, launched Midia India “to give voice to the indigenous peoples of Brazil and to spread news of indigenous campaigns throughout Brazil” over social media, according to Flay’s website. 

The Awa and Guajajara land is increasingly under attack by illegal loggers, farmers and miners, more so since President Jair Bolsonaro entered office last January, prompting other Guajajara members to form the Guardians of the Forest to protect the isolated Indigenous people of the region from illegal logging and mining in the protected area.

"Only a global outcry stands between them and genocide," said Stephen Corry, director of Survival International that published the video Monday.

"Loggers have already killed many of their relatives and forced others out of the forest,” Corry says.

"President Bolsonaro and his friends in the logging industry would like nothing more than for those who still survive to be eliminated," added the environmental leader to Reuters.

Flay shot the footage while filming his newest documentary, ‘Ka'a Zar Ukyze Wà — The Owners of the Forest in Danger,’ about the Indigenous tribes in the region, set to be released July 24 in São Paulo.

"We hope this film will bring positive results and create reverberate internationally to focus on protecting a people, a forest, a nation, a land and a story," said Flay in an interview by Survival International. 

"We were not allowed to record, but we know the importance of using this image of Awas because if we do not show them to the world they will end up being murdered by the loggers. There is a need to show that they exist and are threatened," said Erisvan Guajajara, a founding member of India Media.

Some members of the Awa have made contact with the outside world, it is believed there are many living in isolated areas of the rainforest that are under threat from logging.

According to data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research, deforestation in the world's largest tropical rainforest soared more than 88 percent in June compared with the same month a year ago, a statistic President Bolsonaro denied Sunday, while calling environmentalism a “psychosis.” 

"They (Awa tribe) … are a people who have been persecuted for more than 519 years. They live on that land there but we have never had any contact (with them). We've always known that they are there, in the middle of so many invaders. They have been threatened by many things, from loggers, hunters, fishermen, farmers," says Flay.

"We have got together and organise a team to protect the territory. We were worried and are worried about future generations and about the isolated tribes that we have never seen," he adds. 

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