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The slaughter of uncontacted tribal people deep in the Amazon forest

© Kat Morgenstern, December 2006

achuarwoman (62K)I was horrified when I heard the news: women, children, young men and elders - all dead. I felt the anger, the tears, the frustration well up inside of me and had to fight hard to swallow it all down. I couldn't speak, nor cry. The screams of those massacred deep in the Ecuadorian forest have been swallowed up by a wall of silence. Nobody wants to talk about it. For these were people that nobody knew, uncontacted tribes, nameless nomads, with only one wish - to be left in peace to live their traditional lifestyle far away from the evils of civilization. It was not to be. Civilization in its most horrendous form caught up with them in the guise of their own distant cousins. What did they want? Why did they kill?

Divide and rule is the name of the game. An ancient method of gaining power and control: send in the mercenaries, preferably natural enemies of the adversary, but one's who know their actions and behaviour well. Gain trust with lies, phoney 'gifts' or 'deals' while preparing for the kill. Then, when the moment has come, go for broke and show no mercy. This strategy is well tried and tested, having once found abundant application in the subjugation of the First Nations of North America, forcing opposing tribes to their knees at the hands, or with the aid of their mercenary brethren. Betrayal and deceit as a means to pursue power and riches. These days the perpetrators are logging companies, oil companies, mining companies and drug lords - while governments turn a blind eye. The victims have remained the same - indigenous people, who try to defend their heritage, their lifestyle and the tribal land of their ancestors.

It is not easy to negotiate tribal rights and access rights - let alone with independently minded people who have no interest or desire to enter any kind of agreement with outsiders. Much easier therefore, to simply eliminate the 'problem'. After all, an unknown entity will never be missed and the world will never know as long as their screams do no not reach the regions beyond the forest. In this case they somehow did, someone got away and told the story and thus it reached my ears. And as I listened I felt helpless, numb and desperately sad about the way of the world, far away from the 'niceties of society' and its seemingly lawful confines. But does this story really come from so far away? The actual murderers had no personal bones to pick with their victims - they were simply executing the will of the paying hands, which in turn is attached to a much longer and stronger arm with a very definite vested interest in the resources they would be able to get their dirty hands on once these inconvenient savages were out of the way.

But who and where are these men with the long, strong arms? They sit in meetings and talk about 'opportunities' and money to be made. One would never think of them as murderers - they are 'respectable' business people and are probably only dimly aware of the impact of their words when they say - 'I don't care, just get them out of the way' - thus, a chain of events unravels that culminates in merciless slaughter - and they get away with it.

How can that be? Why do they get away with it? For one thing, there is no real evidence that this scenario really happened. We keep hearing rumours - and not just from Ecuador, but also from Peru and other parts, but what is a rumour? Nothing, in the eyes of the law. And so the silent slaughter may continue, until there is nobody left to tell the tale because a whole tribe has been extinguished, executed in an unspoken war on the environment and the people of the forest.

Sadly, there is nothing I can do for these people whose names and faces I never knew. Nothing, except to remember them and to tell the tale. This terrible incident and countless others that follow the same pattern make me yet again aware of the vital role that community based eco-tourism projects can play, not just to protect a habitat and its wildlife, but also the people of the forest. Community based tourism projects promise economic rewards for everybody, taking away the incentive for mercenaries to slaughter their brethren or poach animals or trees. A community that is collectively involved in a tourism project has a peaceful source of income that depends on the health and well-being of the forest and its inhabitants and not on rape and pillage of its resources. Furthermore the eyes of foreigners bear witness and may carry the real story of what goes on out into the world - and we, the people, can show that we care.

More background info on this issue go to:
'Alleged Massacre'
Yasuni Rainforest Campaign

Further resources for indigenous people's rights:

Cultural Survival
Survival International

For questions or comments email: kmorgenstern@sacredearth.com

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