Courtesy Survival International
House of uncontacted Ayoreo, discovered when road was bulldozed through their land. The next day the bulldozer returned and flattened the house.

Highest Deforestation Rates Affecting Paraguay’s Uncontacted Natives

Terri Hansen

After rising TB deaths last year Survival wrote to Paraguay’s Ministry of Health asking it to prevent the needless deaths of indigenous Ayoreo, and called on ranching companies to put an immediate stop to all work on Ayoreo land.

Contacted indigenous Ayoreo voiced their opposition to forest clearing in a December statement released by the Ayoreo organization OPIT, stating, “Today with the change in our diet, our adults die young … We are protecting the forests that provide for us. This way we don't need the white people's food to survive. We want to continue using the forest, and for the ranchers to stop harassing our relatives who remain there.”Bulldozers move in on 'hiding tribes' heartland. (Courtesy Survival International)

These contacted tribal members “work tirelessly,” reports Survival, to secure legal title to the land inhabited by their uncontacted relatives, which is just a fraction of their territory. Without their forest, they cannot feed or support themselves, and they are extremely concerned about their uncontacted relatives still living there.

Under Paraguayan law, this claim area should have been titled to the Indigenous Peoples years ago, as both Paraguayan law, and the country’s Constitution, recognize their right to the ownership of their traditional lands.

In an urgent appeal sent December 19 to the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, the Ayoreo organization OPIT said, “(For the Ayoreo and their uncontacted relatives), protecting the forest and their territories constitutes life itself.” Kayla Wieche, a Survival International spokesperson based in the U.S. said James Anaya, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for indigenous Peoples has not yet responded to the appeal.

“For how much longer will Paraguay boast two UNESCO biosphere reserves?” questioned Stephen Corry, director of Survival International in a statement. “With the world’s highest rate of deforestation, the Chaco won’t last forever: with it, the country’s only uncontacted tribe will be obliterated. The government must stop Brazilian ranchers destroying its peoples heritage before it’s too late for the Chaco, and too late for the Ayoreo.”

When U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang visited Paraguay in early 2011, she said, “The U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – of which Paraguay is a signatory – is the guide and the solution to ensure that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are respected.”

RELATED: Paraguay’s Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Slowly Improving


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