Akuntsu: The Tribe with Only 5 Individuals Left on Earth

Ururu, who died on 1st October 2009 leaving behind only 5 Akuntsu members.Photo: © Fiona Watson/SurvivalUruru, who died on 1st October 2009 leaving behind only 5 Akuntsu members.
All images courtesy and used with permission of Survival International

The dense forests of Rondônia, Brazil are the home to some of the most remotely situated and declining tribes left in the world. Some are uncontacted. Among them is the tiny tribe known as the ‘Akuntsu’. Not so very long ago, many members of the Akuntsu tribe existed in these forests. However with the tragic deaths of most of them due to an invasion by loggers and ranchers, today just five individuals are left.

Imagine: today only five surviving members represent the entire Akuntsu community. Having suffered extreme violence, they still live a fearful life surrounded by hostile ranchers.

Ururu and the surviving AkuntsuPhoto: © Fiona Watson/SurvivalUruru and the surviving Akuntsu. From left to right – Nãnoi, Ururú, Pugapía. Pupák, Enotéi and Konibú.

The Brazilian government considers the Akuntsu to be an isolated tribe. Its people were first contacted by FUNAI (a Brazilian governmental protection agency for Indian interests and their culture) in 1995. A small, fragile tribe, living in a small speck of the northwestern Brazilian rainforests, the Akuntsu are under incredible threat today.

Due to cattle ranching and crop farming, these forest reserves of Rondônia are disappearing fast. When the first official contact was made, only seven members were left in the tribe after a massacred by loggers in around 1990. Konibú and Pupak, two lucky survivors of the incident, still have the marks of bullets on their bodies.

Konibú, a shaman of the Akuntsu tribe,Photo: © Fiona Watson/SurvivalKonibú, a shaman of the Akuntsu tribe, Brazil.

These people have a very different style of life to our own, and we don’t know much about them. Living near the Omerê River, their daily dietary need is fulfilled by some hunting, wild fruit collection and some cultivation too. They are masters of feather artwork, and also make items of pottery and body ornaments. As well, they make bamboo pan pipes to compose melodies.

“With Ururú’s [one of the tribespeople’s] death we are seeing the final stages of 21st century genocide. Although their numbers are small, the result is just as final. Only when this persecution is seen as akin to slavery or apartheid will tribal peoples begin to be safe,” said Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International.

Akuntsu woman, Bugapia, wife of KonibuPhoto: © Fiona Watson/SurvivalAkuntsu woman, Bugapia, wife of Konibu, Omerê territory. Rondônia state, Brazil.

Today Survival International claims to be the only organization working for tribal peoples’ rights worldwide. In spite of all odds, Survival’s team helps tribal peoples defend their lives, to secure their own future and live in peace. There are many ways to get active. Click here to act now.

To hear tribal people speak out on film, go here .

We must work towards protecting the land of these people and their incredible tradition, and keep out invaders, in order to let them thrive properly. If these tribes are gone, our connection with the past and the history of our identity as a species will be gone forever.

Sources: 1, 2