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Amazon fires put one million indigenous people at risk

Posted August 26, 2019 – Telesur

A million indigenous people living in the jungles of the Amazon are in imminent danger due to the severe forest fires that ravage the region, which has lost more than 500,000 hectares in the last three weeks. In particular, following the catastrophe, in the indigenous territory of Arariboia in the Maranhão Amazon, the Awá people run the risk of disappearing. The Awás live without contact with the outside world and are one of the last isolated indigenous peoples on the planet. Because of this wave of fires, which is more than 20 days old, indigenous peoples have been forced to declare a state of environmental and humanitarian emergency due to the impact of fire on the ecosystem and its surrounding communities.

“Many consider an emergency for the planet, and they are right, but it is more a human rights emergency for the million indigenous people who have lived sustainably in these lands since time immemorial,” the International Rights Group said. Minorities (MRG) executive director Joshua Castellino said about indigenous communities that “their lives and way of life have been in danger for decades due to a government that continues to dismantle the protection of indigenous land rights in favor of logging and mining.” “The exclusion of indigenous Brazilians from the debate about their and our collective heritage has decimated their culture in the last century…,” said Castellino. “It has also disarmed and left unarmed and disabled the only guardians of the jungle at a time when the world has finally realized the importance they have for the sustainability of life on this planet,” according to Castellino.

People like the Awás are being decimated by the violence of strangers and by diseases such as influenza and measles, to which they have no resistance. Unless their land is protected, they face a catastrophe, the Survival environmental group has warned. Olímpio, one of the group leaders of “Guardians of Guajajara,” said: “We are defending our territory so that the isolated Awá can survive.” “We have been able to reduce the amount of loggers in our land and hope to force them out of the territory. Otherwise, the Awá can be exterminated. We just want them to live in peace,” he said recently. Guajajara Guardians receive very little support from the Brazilian government, despite promises of assistance.

Large areas of forest in the region have been destroyed by illegal loggers and fires made to gain tracts of land, but in many cases these actions get out of control. It is estimated that there are 350 native peoples who live between Brazil and Bolivia, adding about 1.5 million inhabitants of the Amazon basin who could be affected by this environmental crisis. Róbinson López, coordinator of climate change and biodiversity of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), explained that in addition to environmental impacts, their traditional and spiritual knowledge is also being violated. “The indigenous peoples have an intrinsic relationship with the territories and without them we cannot live, there are our sacred plants; they have put the knowledge of orality at serious risk, our territory is characterized and looked at in an integral way,” he observed.

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August 30, 2019
Finca Solana
Corozal Town

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