Padding through the jungle on bare feet, the sounds of birds and animals scattering in the brush, a man covered in annatto seed dye visits his small tribe’s community garden. He wonders how long they can last; they have already been pushed out of their small territory in Peru by ‘beasts with metal skins’, trucks and the implements of illegal logging. For the moment they are safe, living in their corner of the Amazon Rainforest, but that could end at a moment’s notice.
The Brazilian department of Indian Affairs has made these photos available to Survival International, a group dedicated to protecting the indigenous tribe’s territory. They show one of the last uncontacted tribes in the rainforest, a healthy tribe as can be seen by the cassava and papaya in front of the communal hut. Holding bows and arrows for hunting, the men are able to get fresh meat for their people to go with the vegetables and fruit they grow. However, this will only continue if Peru takes action now to stop the encroachment by illegal loggers pushing the tribe out of their territory.
Brazilian Indian leader Davi Kopenawa Yanomami said: ‘The place where the Indians live, fish, hunt and plant must be protected. That is why it is useful to show pictures of the uncontacted Indians, for the whole world to know that they are there in their forest and that the authorities must respect their right to live there.’
Peru has talked about the importance of protecting land for the tribes against the loggers but so far there has been little action. A U.S. organization, Upper Amazon Conservancy, carried out overflights on the Peru side of the forest and discovered continued evidence of illegal logging in a protected area.
One of the reasons these images have been released is that there are still officials in both Brazil and Peru’s governments who deny the existence of these uncontacted tribes and accuse people of inventing them. These photographs are proof that they not only exist but that they will be able to survive if only their habitat and land is protected.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: ‘The illegal loggers will destroy this tribe. It’s vital that the Peruvian government stop them before time runs out. The people in these photos are self-evidently healthy and thriving. What they need from us is their territory protected, so that they can make their own choices about their future.
‘But this area is now at real risk, and if the wave of illegal logging isn’t stopped fast, their future will be taken out of their hands. This isn’t just a possibility: it’s irrefutable history, rewritten on the graves of countless tribes for the last five centuries.’