Nukak tribe – ‘We are being wiped out’

May 18, 2006

This page was created in 2006 and may contain language which is now outdated.

The reclusive Nukak tribe, who hit headlines worldwide this month after fleeing their forest home, are caught up in a violent civil war between guerrillas and the Colombian army. The Nukak are one of the Amazon's few nomadic tribes. Since they first came into close contact with non-Indians in 1988, over half their number have died, mainly from flu and malaria transmitted by outsiders.

‘We are few now; hardly any Nukak remain. The outsiders are many, and have big houses. They don't care that the Nukak are being wiped out,' says Nukak man Chorebe.

Of the remaining 400 Nukak, half are now displaced with no means of returning to their forest homes as the fighting continues to rage. Those who remain in the forest run a huge risk of being killed in the escalating crossfire.

The army is spraying coca plantations, grown by colonists on the Nukak's land, with herbicide from the air. In addition, Colombia's main left-wing guerilla army, the FARC, and the right-wing paramilitary army, the AUC, both have large numbers of forces in Nukak territory. Both groups seek to control the lucrative coca crop.

The Nukak, part of a group of nomads known as the Makú, live in small family groups deep in the rainforests of Colombia and Brazil. They move from camp to camp every few days depending on the available hunting and gathering of fruits and vegetables. Fish are also an important food.

Survival and Colombia's national Indian organisation ONIC are urging all sides to call a ceasefire and withdraw from Nukak territory, and to send urgently needed medical teams in to treat the Indians.

Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, ‘If the authorities do not act swiftly to protect the Nukak and their land, Colombia's last nomads face extinction.'

To write a letter in support of the Nukak click here

To read ONIC's statement click here

Photos and footage available. For more information call Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]