Imagine a star of unparalleled grace. A paradise resplendent with the lore and spirit of your ancestors. Imagine a warm, gentle breeze carrying through shimmering boughs of ancient trees and leaves rustling in harmony with the sighing kindling. The very air you breathe heightens a tone of splendour, while the ground below exudes a dreamlike mist across the dewy, life-giving earth. This place is your home. The land is your mother. The river flows with the lifeblood of your people and it is the only world you have ever known. But not for long, because it is being decimated.
This is what is happening to the Awá, right now, as you read these words. Nestled in the Amazon rainforest of eastern Brazil, amidst the fragrant breath of pine and fir and cedar trees, live the Awá—the Earth’s most threatened tribe. The Awá are nomadic hunter-gatherers with an all-encompassing love for the land. They are peaceful people and their existence is joyful. Extraordinary pet keepers, most Awá families keep coatis, wild pigs, birds and monkeys. The bond and empathy between the Awá and the forest animals is so strong that mothers are known to nurse the baby monkeys in their midst.
The Awá are humble, spiritual folk; their spirit guides are as real to them as the flora and fauna of the rainforest in which they live. They are the real stewards of this precious land, and they do so with care and unmitigated grace. Awá land is continuously invaded and ravaged by armies of illegal loggers, ranchers and settlers. Not only is their land being destroyed, but according to the Indigenous Missionary Council about 450 Awá were murdered between 2003 and 2010. In 2011, loggers burned an 8-year-old Awá girl alive after she wandered out of her village.
The Awá are outnumbered 10:1 by invaders, and recent reports suggest that roughly 350 Awá survive and 100 of those have no contact with the outside world. Only a groundswell of public protest and outcry, both in Brazil and internationally, can protect the Awá from certain extinction. Survival International, the movement for tribal peoples, has been campaigning for Awá land for over forty years and their recent campaign is essential if this small tribe is going to survive. We all share a responsibility for conserving the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest, the world’s lungs, and this also means protecting the culture and land of its indigenous people.
Here’s what you can do to help:
(i) Send an email to Brazil’s Minister of Justice;
(ii) Share my blog on Facebook/Twitter or write your own;
(iii) Raise awareness of the Awá’ by disseminating the film, below.
If you would like more information about tribal conservation and how to get involved please contact me. If you would like to contribute your two pence, or have any opinions on the wider issues affecting heritage conservation, I would love to hear from you. Remember, the Awá and other endangered tribes depend on us to preserve their precious way of life. They simply cannot do it for themselves.