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Amazon’s Tribal Awa’s Cry for Help

By Chitra Gunderson


Dense Amazon forests used to cover large areas of northeast Brazil… now they have almost disappeared. Forests once lush with the world’s greatest bio-diversity now stand bare, destroyed plant species burned to a crisp, plants that could have been the future cure of a devastating disease. These ancient forests are where tribal Awá peoples are struggling to resist the advances of cattle ranchers and loggers eager to make a fortune from excavating iron ore.

Little Butterfly” lives in this ancient forest with her tribal community where they live a nomadic lifestyle, depending entirely on the berries, plants and animals living in the forest for their sustenance. As she plays with the other children, takes care of a pet monkey or swings on a vine over the river, there are no worries, until the fateful day arrives…

Little Butterfly” Awá’s village is just half an hour’s walk from the frontier where settlers are invading her tribe’s lands. The rains will soon stop, and a new wave of burning will begin.” Visit: SurvivalInternational.org

As the rainy season ends, loggers begin targeting one of the Awá’s main hunting areas. As trees are burned and massive areas destroyed, Little Butterfly’s tribe has to move to find a new location, sometimes a great distance away from their ancestor’s lands. The Awá tribe’s land is being destroyed faster than any other Amazon tribe; they are on the run for their lives.

The hunters told me how the loggers were driving animals out of the forest and explained that they targeted the same trees the community relies on for fruits and berries,” said Justin Rowlatt of BBC News. One Awá man told Justin…

This is our land and if they cut our trees we can’t survive.”

So... what is the Awá’s alternative? Move to the cities where they will end up living in shanty-towns or slums, and struggling to survive, longing for the forest they used to know and love?

In the city, we feel the same insecurity outsiders do in the forest,” says Blade, an Awá man.

Just imagine if it were you being dropped off in the Amazon rainforest with no guide to lead you to safety, show you what plants are good to eat, or how to build your shelter. Personally, I would be totally lost, scared, and starving from hunger.

Facing total annihilation are so many other un-contacted Awá tribes, their lives crushed by illegal loggers, ranchers and settlers invading the land they depend on. Fiona Watson of Survival International explains that over 30% of one territory has already been destroyed, even though the land is legally recognized. There have also been reports that heavily armed ranchers and loggers, along with their hired guns, are shooting the Awá on sight.

Who are the savages? In my book, respect for other humans and cultures, is or should be a core value of humanity, especially civilized humanity. After all, cultural diversity is the beauty of the world.

If we don’t honor and respect the basic human right to live our lives the way we choose, then… how are we any different from animals?

If we can’t respect the right of the last tribes living in isolation on the planet to decide their own fate, then how are we different from the conquistadors of 500 years ago, whom we so roundly condemn for their violence and greed?” Says Mitch Anderson, writer and activist.

How will we live without the forest?” asks Armadillo Awá.

Yet, some may ask… So what does the extinction of a tribe have to do with us westerners? With the loss of a tribal culture, we lose the knowledge of the Amazon Rainforest’s healing plants. Plants in the Amazon have been used for thousands of years by the indigenous peoples to heal health problems that we, who live in developed countries, struggle to find relief from. In addition, the Amazon rainforests are an integral part of the air we breathe all over the world. Unless we save the Amazon and the inhabitants of the forest, we will gradually destroy our own civilization.

Save the Amazon Forest, Save the Awá, Save the Planet.

Survival International has launched a campaign to Save the Awá. In their campaign film, Actor Colin Firth, requests our help, “One man can stop this: Brazil’s minister of justice. He can send in the federal police to catch the loggers, and keep them out for good. But we need enough people to message him. This is our chance, right now, to actually do something. And if enough people show they care, it will work.”

Show your support now… Visit www.survivalinternational.org/awa

For more information about the healing properties of Amazonian Plants, call Chitra Gunderson, independent distributor, at (240) 674-5220 or Chitra@rainforestcanopy.com

References: www.survivalinternational.org; www.bbc.co.uk