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The Plight of Indigenous People

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Riveting. That’s the only word that could ever begin to adequately describe brand new footage of an uncontacted tribe on the border of Brazil and Peru.

The video, filmed by the BBC and promoted by human rights group Survival International, was released late last week and has become the internet sensation of the moment. The footage has garnered over one hundred thousand YouTube views after just a week. Meanwhile, online forums are brimming with curious commenters wondering who these people are and where they came from.  But despite the feelings of international wonder the video has created, its true purpose is to illuminate a pressing matter: the tribespeople shown in the stunning footage are in danger from an illegal logging operation in Peru.

The corporate interests of the illegal loggers are at odds with the very existence of the tribes, and as a result many tribespeople will lose their lives in the inevitable conflict. The strife in this dilemma isn’t unique, and in many ways represents one of many microcosms of the battle being waged between basic humanity and corporate greed.

The Guarani

The Guarani represent the fate of the aforementioned uncontacted tribe should society ever decide to turn a blind eye. The Guarani, Brazil’s largest indigenous tribe, have fallen victim to the vindictive policies of corporate ranchers.

During the past century, the Guarani have lost such a massive amount of land, their very culture and way of life has been irreparably damaged. As a result of what the Guarani perceive as the end of their very civilization, their people have been plagued by an amount of suicides unseen in the entire continent.

Violence against the Guarani is another area of concern. In a report penned by Survival International, the president of Brazil’s Indian Affairs Agency, Dr. Marcio Meira said, “Several indigenous people have been assassinated in the area, and suffer from violence and prejudice.”

The Dongria Kondh

Fortunately, the fight for the human rights of indigenous people isn’t a lost cause. While tribes like the Guarani face unprecedented persecution, the Dongria Kondh of India have been relatively successful in their fight for humane treatment.

The home of the Dongria, the Nyamgiri hills, was in danger of being destroyed by a mining operation of the massive multinational corporation, Vedanta Resources.

Through the dedicated work of human rights organizations around the world, as well as the tireless protests of the Dongria Kondh and their supporters, the situation managed to gain a global stage. With the international spotlight on the plight of the Dongria, the Indian government ruled in favor of the Dongria’s rights and prohibited Vedanta Resources from going through with their project.

The victory of the Dongria Kondh serves as a reminder that the welfare of indigenous people all over the world has to take precedence over the fiscal wellbeing of corporations. Like the Dongria, the future of the uncontacted tribe can hopefully benefit from international awareness.

Peruvian officials, likely as a result of the media coverage, have gone from denying the existence of the tribes to pledging to the Brazilian government to help preserve the inhabited areas. Although this news is encouraging, it still remains to be seen if the Peruvian government will take the necessary steps to preserve what could be mankind’s final bastion of innocence.

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About Dean Stephens

  • I suppose there is greater hope for the indigenous people such as the Guarani and the Dongria Kondh than the people of Egypt. Is it because the former pose a lesser threat to global corporate interests, not to mention national security interests of the United States and its Western allies than the rising Egyptians do, and can therefore be appeased? Something to ponder upon. Still, the fact remains that not enough pressure is brought to bear to help the people of Egypt in their plight to overthrow their tyrannical government.