Vanishing Tribe Awá

ava8Deep in the Amazon jungle lives the most vulnerable tribe in the world, whose members, trying to protect themselves from destruction, lead nomadic life, constantly moving with children, weapons and pets — Awá-Guajá people.ava77This small tribe found itself  on the verge of extinction because European colonists enslaved them and ranchers stole their land.  And yet they live in harmony with nature in the jungle, that shrinks and vanishes all around them.
Let’s take a look how Awá people live and survive…ava91Very few people have ever met Awá. Photographer Domenico Pugliese  was one of those lucky ones to have spent time with this remarkable tribe and even becoming a source of entertainment for them.

Pugliese first met the people of the tribe in 2009 after his friend, a journalist, offered him an a fellow anthropologist a journey to the jungle areas where Awá lived. “They heard the sound of the boat engine and came down the river bank,” Pugliese recals. “It felt like I suddenly was in another world.”

After they’ve got to know him, Awás even found a reason for ridiculing the photographer. They simply couldn’t understand how a grown man can be alone, without a family. Family is very important for Awá people. The concept of family is not limited only to relatives. Family also includes close friends and animals. After all, animals help them perform their everyday tasks, such as cracking nuts and collect fruit from tall trees. They are as much a part of their families as their children.ava1Most Awá families keep several tame wild animals, which are tenderly breast-fed by the women of the tribe until they grow up.

ava7Awá people keep wild pigs, squirrels, parrots and large rodent agouti, but their favorite pets are monkeys.
ava4Primates are an important food source for Awá, however, if the monkey has been breast-fed as a baby, they will never eat it. Even if such monkey returns to the jungle, they would recognize it as a hanima  — a member of the family.
ava3 Out of tens of thousands of Awá population, who lived in Maranhao 500 years ago before the Portuguese colonists arrived, only about 400 people survived. About 60 of them have never had contact with the outside world.
avaMany died of diseases brought from overseas — smallpox, measles, influenza and others. Surviving people were enslaved and forced to work on rubber and sugar cane plantations.ava9In 1835, after centuries of oppression, Maranhao tribes rebelled against the European invaders. During the 5-year-old uprising, about 100 thousand  indigenous people were killed.awa88After that,  Awás were forced to take up a nomadic way of life to avoid the genocide. Over the next 200 years, they have become skilled hunters and learned how to build home in a few hours, and a day later abandon them and hit the road again. As a result, to a large extent, people have lost  their agricultural skills and even the ability to start a fire.ava6In 1982, the Brazilian government received a loan of 900 million USD from the World Bank and the European Union. One condition of this loan was that the lands of certain indigenous peoples (including the Awá) would be demarcated and protected. This was particularly important for the Awá because their forests were increasingly being invaded by outsiders. There were many cases of tribespeople being killed by settlers, and the forest on which they depend was being destroyed by logging and land clearance for farming. Without government intervention it seemed very likely that the Awá and their ancient culture would become extinct. (Wiki)

The Brazilian Government has announced that all the “invaders” were expelled from the land of Awá in the past year, but today the people of the tribe face even greater danger — fires raging in the Amazon.

The fires that destroy huge areas of jungle on the eastern edge of the Amazon, often instigated by ranchers who want to turn the forest into plantations.


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