There have been two stories in the news recently about indigenous peoples in South America. First, Indigneousnews.org is reporting that the last remaining (previously) un-contacted tribe in Paraguay is being systematically ousted by Brazilian cattle-ranchers. In this case, it seems the land is being illegally taken from the tribe as the land had previously been purchased from the cattle ranchers by the government with the condition that it be returned to the tribe. It seems that this subgroup of the Ayoreo people was first contacted in 2004 and that since that time they have faced constant pressure from the cattle ranchers to abandon their lands. It remains unclear whether the Paraguayan government has the capability to fully protect their native people from encroachment from large farming and timber interests.
The second story of the struggle of indigenous people in South America comes from Peru where President Evo Morales has announced the construction of a trans-national roadway despite the protests of indigenous people whose land the roadway would cross. This is an interesting move for Mr. Morales. He is the first indigenous person ever elected to the position of President in Peru, and the first person of native ethnicity to be democratically elected in any Latin American country since Benito Juarez was elected President of Mexico in the 1850’s. Mr. Morales’ platform has centered on social reform and fair and equal treatment for indigenous people. Mr. Morales has demonstrated Marxist leanings greatly influenced by the political thought of Che Guevara, so to take such a strong stand against a significant part of his own constituency demonstrates that the voices of these indigenous people may be fading away.
It is almost a given that eventually there will be no more “un-contacted” people. As long as we as humans are driven to explore, contacting these native people will be unavoidable. What we can control however, is how we continue to interact with them and how we treat their rights as human beings.
All right, I’m off my soapbox. Enjoy the weekend.