'Don't destroy us; our way of life is as modern as yours'.

August 1, 2004

This page was created in 2004 and may contain language which is now outdated.

Hunter-gatherers' plea to outside world on UN Day of Indigenous Peoples

Remote hunter-gatherer tribes have issued a plea to the outside world to mark the UN Day of Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, saying, ’We are not backward, our way of life is as modern as yours'. The appeal comes as isolated tribal people face a wave of persecution and attacks on their way of life.

In the remote Andaman Islands of the Indian Ocean, the isolated Jarawa tribe are suffering from new diseases, sexual exploitation and the loss of their land. Outsiders kill the game on which they depend. The Indian government calls them 'primitive'. The Jarawa have only recently started to communicate with the outside world. One Jarawa man called Enmei said, 'The outsiders are bad men… They abuse us… The jungle is better. Even if I have to stay outside for a few days, I would like to return to my family in the jungle.'

In the Brazilian Amazon one of the last nomadic tribes, the Awá, are now barely 300-strong. Their land is being taken by cattle ranchers and settlers. An Awá man called To'o said, ’We're getting cornered as the whites close in… We are always fleeing. Without the forest we have no way of surviving and we'll be extinct. But we're going to fight for our land, we're not going to let the whites in. We're not going to let them finish our land. We want to raise our children here.'

The Gana and Gwi Bushmen of Botswana were until recently some of the last hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari desert. Thrown off their land by the government, barely 200 cling on. The government has called them ‘Stone Age' and ’prehistoric'. But speaking today one Bushman said, ’Our way of life is just as modern as yours. There's no reason why we can't wear clothes, send our children to school, and still be hunter-gatherers.'

Survival's Director Stephen Corry said today, ’Hunter-gatherers extend from those still uncontacted by anyone else to those who wear watches, listen to the radio and complain to the UN when they are abused. White people have now accepted that black people are not inferior to themselves, it's high time everyone now realised that hunter-gatherers are not inferior to farmers or bankers.'

Photos and footage available.

For more information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected].

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