Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Brazil: ‘Dalai Lama of the rainforest’ appeals for Rio+20 to save world's most threatened tribe

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami says Brazil can save the Awá tribe. © Survival

Source: Survival International

The ‘Dalai Lama of the rainforest’ is urgently appealing to governments attending Rio+20 to help save the earth’s most threatened tribe, by pressuring Brazil to stamp out illegal logging.

Speaking ahead of the UN conference, internationally renowned Indian leader Davi Kopenawa Yanomami said properly protecting the Awá tribe’s land rights was the only way to guarantee their survival.

He described the tribe as his ‘brothers’, and said, ‘The Awá are seeing their forest cut down faster than any other tribe in the Amazon. How much longer will the government wait before it acts to evict the illegal settlers, ranchers and loggers and properly protect their territory?’

Davi became an international figure after leading a long-running campaign to save his people from being wiped out.

The Yanomami spokesman is attending the conference in Rio, and urged all those involved to ‘ask the Brazilian President when she will take action’.

On Tuesday, the Awá launched their own video to coincide with Rio+20, in which they appealed to the Brazilian government to end illegal deforestation.

In one of the messages, Amiri, an Awá man says, ‘We are people too, you cannot abandon us... You can help us to evict those people, the loggers. You can remove them and make them leave our land.’

Survival’s campaign to save the Awá prompted one of Maranhão state’s public prosecutors to order an investigation to find those responsible. However, so far there has been little evidence of illegal loggers being held to account.

The new head of Brazil’s Indian Affairs Department (FUNAI) Marta Azevedo, has recognized the land’s ‘extreme vulnerability’ on a recent trip to Maranhão. She says the region is a top priority.

Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘If we learned anything from the Earth Summit of 1992, it’s that well-meaning promises are worthless when not backed up by concrete action. Brazilian authorities must be held to their word: if the Awá’s land isn’t protected, they won’t be around in another 20 years’ time.’