Congress to decide fate of uncontacted tribe

February 28, 2005

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Moves to protect the heartland of South America's last uncontacted tribe south of the Amazon basin are now being debated in Paraguay's Congress. The area at stake is home to an unknown number of uncontacted Ayoreo-Totobiegosode Indians. It is vital for the survival of the tribe that the land is protected – logging companies have already penetrated deep into their forest.

The existence of the uncontacted Ayoreo-Totobiegosode was dramatically confirmed last year when a group of seventeen Indians appeared at the edge of the forest and made contact with outsiders for the first time. The group made clear that they did not want to leave the forest, but were desperately short of water. Nearly all their permanent waterholes have been occupied by settlers.

Last year Paraguay's lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, approved a bill to expropriate the area from the logging companies and to return it to the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode. However, after fierce lobbying by a powerful landowners' association, the bill was rejected by the upper house (the Senate). It now returns to the Chamber of Deputies, where a simple majority in favour would mean it is very likely to become law.

Survival International is launching a letter-writing campaign today in support of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode's rights. Ayoreo-Totobiegosode man Eduejai Etacori says, 'The forest gives us life and we use it for all our needs. I don't forget the words of our leaders who said, "Don't abandon the fight for the land." That is why I do not stop fighting.'

Click here to join our letter writing campaign on behalf of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode.

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