World’s Last Remote Indigenous Groups Threatened in Amazon

Tribes and their once-remote lands are threatened by resource-hungry outsiders.

Mayakatan Awá hangs out at his families home in the village of Juriti, Maranhão, Brazil. The Awá are considered among the most endangered tribes in the world. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The Washington Post/Getty Images

Battling illegal loggers has become a hallmark of tribesman living in one of Brazil’s most hotly contested frontiers.

Patrol leaders have received multiple death threats and some of them use fake names to hide their true identities. Three were murder during one month in 2016, reports National Geographic. 

Homegrown groups like the Forest Guardians, which has about 100 members of indigenous volunteers, have popped up in recent years to meet a rising tide of illegal logging that is destroying protected woodlands in the eastern Amazonian state of Maranhão, including the 1,600-square-mile Arariboia Indigenous Land. The wild game that sustained the Guajajara tribesmen in the area is vanishing, and the lakes that led into rivers and streams are drying up because of deforestation.

The Awá nomads, or the easternmost isolated or “uncontacted,” people in the Amazon, are most at risk. They roam the woodlands, living in a state of near-constant flight from the smoke of wildfires and the cutting down of forests.

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