The Awá of Brazil’s eastern Amazon are considered by Survival International, a human rights organisation which campaigns for the rights of indigenous tribal peoples, to be the world’s most threatened tribe. Despite their land being demarcated in 2003, hundreds of members of the tribe have been killed, either by disease or by settlers, and only around 350 Awá remain, 100 of whom have no contact with the outside world.
However, in a victory for campaigners, last month a government operation began to evict illegal settlers, ranchers, and loggers from the land of the Awá. Soldiers, field workers from Brazil’s indigenous affairs department FUNAI, environment ministry special agents, and police officers were dispatched in the operation, that comes at a crucial time, as loggers are said to have been closing in on the tribe, and more than 30% of their forest has already been destroyed.
To find out more about the Awá, or to make a donation to help Survival International’s Awá campaign, please visit Survival’s Awá page.
Amerintxia is probably the oldest Awá. She lives on her own in a small palm shelter along with her many pets. She still gathers her own food in forest. Photo © Domenico Pugliese / Survival
Amererintxia sits with one of her pet monkeys in a hammock, which the Awá make from palm tree fibres. Photo © Domenico Pugliese / Survival
The Awá have a very close relationship with animals, especially monkeys. Orphaned baby monkeys are adopted – Awá women care for them as pets, including suckling them. They are regarded as part of the family. Photo © Domenico Pugliese / Survival
The Awá live in extended family groups. Families go on gathering trips where everybody collects nuts and berries. Photo © Domenico Pugliese / Survival
A family take a break during a walk in the forest to collect açai fruits. Photo © Survival
From a young age all Awá learn how to hunt. They are extremely skilled marksmen. Photo © Domenico Pugliese / Survival
A young man rests in the forest on a hunting expedition. Many family groups go off on extended hunts lasting several weeks, where they sleep in palm leaf shelters in the forest and make torches out of tree resin. Photo © Survival
Loggers have penetrated deep into Awá territory, building a network of roads and taking out huge quantities of timber. Sawmills operate just 5kms from the border of the territory. Photo © Greenpeace / Bruno Kelly / Survival
The charred remains of burned forest on Awá land, only kilometres from an Awá community. Photo © Survival
Takwarentxia with his pet monkey. He, his wife, and baby son were contacted in 1992, far from the Awá territory. They were on the run, fleeing from gunmen who murdered some of their family group. Photo © Survival