Bulldozers Destroy Uncontacted People’s Land

Bulldozers have been photographed entering an uncontacted tribe’s territory in one of the remotest corners of South America.

The devastation wreaked by the bulldozers has been caught on satellite photographs. They have been hired by a Brazilian company, Yaguarete Pora S.A., to clear the land to make way for cattle-ranching in northern Paraguay. They are alleged to be hired from Jacobo Kauenhowen, owner of a large bulldozer business in the nearby Mennonite colony of Loma Plata.

The bulldozers’ entry onto the tribe’s land is completely illegal after Yaguarete had its licence to work in the area suspended by the government.

The tribe, the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode, is the only uncontacted tribe in South America outside the Amazon. Thousands of hectares of their land, in an area called the Chaco in northern Paraguay, were destroyed by Yaguarete and another company, River Plate SA, last year.

Some Totobiegosode have already been contacted and have relatives among those who are still uncontacted in the forest.

According to a local organisation supporting the Totobiegosode, Yaguarete has made it clear to them that ‘it does not respect indigenous rights nor Paraguay’s laws.’

Uncontacted tribes are exceedingly vulnerable to any kind of contact because of their lack of immunity to outsiders’ diseases. In an emergency report to the UN last year, Survival described the threat to the Totobiegosode as ‘the most serious threat to tribal peoples anywhere in the world.’

Survival director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘The bulldozers must be stopped and withdrawn from the Totobiegosode’s territory. What kind of government would stand by while this continues?’

Survival International, founded in 1969 after an article by Norman Lewis in the UK's Sunday Times highlighted the massacres, land thefts and genocide taking place in Brazilian Amazonia, is the only international organization supporting tribal peoples worldwide. Contact Survival International at: info@survival-international.org. Read other articles by Survival International, or visit Survival International's website.

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  1. mary said on October 13th, 2009 at 1:46am #

    The facts in this Survival International article are both shocking and sad. Are the politicians powerless to stop these multinational logging and cattle ranchers. The answer of course is for the West to stop eating dead cattle and to boycott the criminals who are perpetrating the crimes..

    In Western Brazil, another South American tribe, the Akuntsus have all but been wiped out.
    ‘Much of the Akuntsus’ story is – for obvious reasons – undocumented. For millennia, they lived in obscurity, deep in the rainforest of Rondonia state, a remote region of western Brazil near the Bolivian border. They hunted wild pig, agoutis and tapir, and had small gardens in their villages, where they would grow manioc (or cassava) and corn.

    Then, in the 1980s, their death warrant was effectively signed: farmers and loggers were invited to begin exploring the region, cutting roads deep into the forest, and turning the once verdant wilderness into lucrative soya fields and cattle ranches.

    Fiercely industrious, the new migrant workers knew that one thing might prevent them from creating profitable homesteads from the rainforest: the discovery of uncontacted tribes, whose land is protected from development under the Brazilian constitution.

    As a result, frontiersmen who first came across the Akuntsu in the mid-1980s made a simple calculation. The only way to prevent the government finding out about this indigenous community was to wipe them off the map.’

    Christopher Columbus still lives. Yesterday was the 500th anniversary of his ‘discovery’ of America. Nothing changes.

    Gary Corseri put it powerfully here a couple of years back.
    Christpher Columbus, Crawl Back InYour Hole!

  2. kalidas said on October 13th, 2009 at 11:11am #

    These people matter about as much as the Tamils matter. Not much.