Amazon Indian tribe threatened

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 Posted: 0108 GMT (0908 HKT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) -- An Amazon Indian tribe isolated from
modern Brazil by hundreds of miles of rain forest faces annihilation by
loggers if nothing is done to protect them, an Indian rights group
warned Monday.

The Indian rights group Survival International said logging companies
were cutting down the forest in the Rio Pardo area, about 1,400 miles
northwest of Rio de Janeiro, despite repeated reports that there were
isolated Indians in the region.

"These people are on a knife's edge. If something isn't done really
urgently, they will be consigned to history," Fiona Watson, a campaign
coordinator for the Indian rights group Survival International, said by
telephone from London.

Anthropologists with Brazil's Federal Indian Bureau first detected the
tribe in 1998 in a densely jungled area of Mato Grosso state, near its
northern border with Amazonas state.

The bureau considers the Indians "uncontacted" because anthropologists
have not reached the tribe, although its members may have had some type
of contact -- perhaps violent -- with wildcat miners and loggers in the

In 2001, the bureau banned outsiders from entering 410,186 acres of the
rain forest to allow anthropologists to contact the tribe and demarcate
a reservation. But the protection efforts were curtailed this March when

a federal judge granted an appeal by the Sulmap Sul Amazonia logging
company that the decree protecting the area would cause the company
irreversible damages.

"The judge's order opened this area to development and forbids the
presence of the Federal Indian Bureau. This is like putting a gun in the

loggers' hands to kill Indians," said Sydney Possuelo, head of the
bureau's Isolated Indians unit.

Little is known about the Rio Pardo Indians except that they probably
are hunter-gathers and were forced to abandon their villages in a hurry.

"When we found the villages it looked like a tsunami had hit," said
Possuelo. "No Indians abandon their hammocks or their arrows unless they

are being harassed."

Possuelo said efforts to contact the Indians were complicated because
they appeared to have been the victims of attacks by loggers.

"If, on the one hand, we are trying to protect them, there are others
who are trying to make them run. They don't know who is who," Possuelo

About 700,000 Indians live in Brazil, mostly in the Amazon region. About

400,000 of them live on reservations where they try to maintain their
traditional culture, language and lifestyle.

Indians have been always pushed deeper into the jungle by settlers. The
bureau has said in the past that it has learned from other Indians of a
few uncontacted tribes in the western Amazon state, where the region's
jungle is thickest.

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