Congress to decide fate of uncontacted Indians

April 4, 2005

This page was created in 2005 and may contain language which is now outdated.

The fate of the last uncontacted South American tribe outside Amazonia will be decided this week. Paraguay's Congress will debate a bill which would protect the heart of their territory.

The Indians are members of the Ayoreo tribe, some of whom still lead a nomadic life in the dense scrub forest of western Paraguay, rejecting contact with outsiders. Dramatic evidence of their existence came one year ago, when a group of seventeen emerged from the forest and issued a plea to the outside world to stop destroying their homeland.

Most of the Ayoreo's territory is now in private hands. The core of their territory is owned by three private companies, two Brazilian and one Paraguayan. The bill now before Congress would buy the land from them at a fair price, and return it to the Indians.

The Indians' future if the bill fails is bleak: much of their forest has already been destroyed for logging and cattle ranching. The land-owners who now own it have repeatedly defied injunctions meant to protect the Indians, sending in bulldozers to open tracks into the forest.

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

Photos of the isolated Indians, and aerial footage of the Indians' territory, showing illegally-bulldozed tracks, are available.