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The struggle of indigenous tribes for survival and cultural preservation

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

Latin America has been home to numerous indigenous tribes for millennia. However, these communities face a series of challenges that threaten their survival and their traditional way of life.

Activistas indígenas sujetando cartel en una manifestación

One of the biggest threats to indigenous tribes in Brazil is deforestation and loss of territory. Agricultural expansion, mining and illegal logging have led to the destruction of vast forest areas, directly affecting indigenous territories. According to testimonies from indigenous leaders, such as Raoni Metuktire of the Kayapó people, these activities endanger their way of life and the biological diversity of the region.

On the other hand, the Yanomami reserve, located in the Amazon jungle, has been the subject of an intense invasion by illegal miners in recent years. This invasion has caused the destruction of the Yanomami's habitat and has led to the spread of deadly diseases for the indigenous people, such as malaria. Davi Kopenawa, a Yanomami leader, has repeatedly denounced this situation and has asked the Brazilian government to take measures to protect his territory and guarantee his survival.

In fact, indigenous tribes face violence and territorial conflicts due to economic and political interests. The decades-long dispute over the land has led to clashes with ranchers, loggers and extractive companies. These conflicts have resulted in physical attacks, murders, and forced displacement of indigenous communities. We're talking about the struggle of indigenous tribes for survival and cultural preservation.

The indigenous tribes of Brazil face their greatest challenge; Law 490, also known as the Temporary Framework, which would only recognize as indigenous reserves those occupied as of 1988. For this reason, in recent weeks, the country has been filled with mobilizations against it, since if approved it would put at risk hundreds of territories. Today there are about 300 ethnic groups in the country, which occupy at least 700 territories considered ancestral lands.

The case of Berta Cáceres is still remembered on the continent; indigenous leader and environmental activist in Honduras, co-founder and general coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), she was assassinated in 2016 because of her fight to defend the rights of indigenous communities and the preservation of the environment. Her case highlights the vulnerability of indigenous activists and the violence they face when defending their territories and culture.

According to data provided by Global Witness, more than 120 people, mostly climate activists, were murdered in Honduras alone between 2010 and 2017 for opposing projects that put the environment at risk.

In addition to territorial challenges, indigenous tribes face threats to the preservation of their culture and traditions. The influence of the dominant society, discrimination, limited access to education and the loss of indigenous languages contribute to the cultural erosion of these communities.

The indigenous Guarani-Kaiowá in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul fight to preserve their language and cultural identity. The lack of government support and forced displacement from their lands have led to a decline in the use of their mother tongue and the loss of ancestral knowledge. Despite these challenges, Guarani-Kaiowá leaders are working hard to revitalize their language and keep their traditions alive.

Indigenous tribes face numerous challenges that threaten their existence and their cultural heritage. Deforestation, violence, loss of territory, and cultural erosion are just some of the problems these communities face. However, the testimonies of activists and indigenous people demonstrate their courage and resilience in defending their rights and preserving their cultures. It is essential that society as a whole stands in solidarity with these communities and commits to supporting their struggles for justice and the preservation of their ancestral legacy.

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