Contributed by Julia Marchese
Last Tribes of the Amazon: Protecting Earth’s Most Threatened People can be found on the following link:
Photographs by Charlie Hamilton James / National Geographic
On September 20th, 2018, Professor Scott Wallace (UConn, Journalism) gave a talk at El Instituto titled, Speaking for Those Who Cannot Speak for Themselves: The Struggle to Defend the Rights of Isolated Tribes in the Amazon. As a journalist, Wallace has travelled all over the world exploring and researching indigenous and human rights, vanishing cultures, and conflict over land and resources. He is a frequent contributor to National Geographic and during this Tertulia discussed his most recent cover story, Last Tribes of the Amazon: Protecting Earth’s Most Threatened People.
Wallace discussed how one of Brazil’s government protection agencies for Indian interests, land, and culture, FUNAI (Fundação Nacional do Índio), has been fighting for decades for the protection of uncontacted, isolated tribes in the Amazon. Because of policies implemented by FUNAI and the Brazilian government, it is now illegal for non-tribal members to enter the lands of these tribes. Wallace argues that these tribes cannot be protected unless you protect their land. He recently completed a three-month expedition through the remote territories of the Flecheiro people in the Javari region and the Awá people of Maranhão, to investigate recent conflicts regarding illegal logging, drug trafficking, illegal intrusion and gold dredging, and even the suspected killings of some of the people of these tribes.
A week into the trip that Wallace “felt like he was trespassing on land that belonged to someone else.” Using just a compass and topographical map, Wallace and about 35 other expeditioners walked through paths filled with 150 foot trees in primal forest and permanent twilight caused by the tree’s shadows.
These are Earth’s most threatened and vulnerable people. With FUNAI’s funding being slashed and the upcoming tense elections in Brazil, the future of these people is more than ever before in doubt. Indigenous groups have in response been taking a more militant role by forming tribal militias. Stories like those by Wallace publicize their struggles for a global audience.