Canadian tribe reaches out to Jarawa

February 21, 2007

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A leader from the Innu tribe of sub-arctic eastern Canada has made a heartfelt plea to the Indian government to protect the Jarawa of the Andaman Islands, published last week in the Times of India.

The plea comes in the run-up to a discussion of India’s record by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this Friday. Survival has submitted a report to the UN warning that the Jarawa tribe of the Andaman Islands could be ‘wiped out’ unless the Indian government acts to protect them.

Innu leader George Rich in the Times of India calls on the Indian government to ensure that the Jarawa are spared the devastation wrought on the Innu when the Canadian government moved them from their land.

‘Our parents, hunters all their lives, were branded as poachers and prosecuted by wildlife officers for trying to feed their families; our teachers tried to make us ashamed of our identity and our culture.
It was like we'd suddenly become unwelcome guests in our own land.’

The Innu communities now have some of the highest suicide rates in the world, and children as young as 12 have hung themselves.

Rich continues, ‘The Jarawa are not being settled like the Innu in villages far from their hunting grounds but poachers are stealing the animals they depend on, depriving them of an independent livelihood and of a central part of their culture.

‘Alcohol, drugs and sexual abuse, all of which have ravaged my people, are being introduced by local settlers and sometimes, as with the Innu, by the very people the government has sent to 'look after' them. And the Jarawa, much more than the Innu, are in danger of being wiped out by new diseases brought by outsiders.

‘We don't want to have to relive our own painful story as we watch the Jarawa’s unfold. We can only ask the Indian government to act quickly to protect the Jarawa before it is too late. India need only look at my people's tragic story to see the alternative.’

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