Survival Alert: Get Creative to Save the Awá, Earth’s Most Threatened Tribe

Stencil power just might be what’s needed to convince Brazil to kick illegal intruders out of the Awá homelands.

Awá men launch arrows into the sky

Awá men launch arrows into the sky. (Photo: Survival International)

Sarah Shenker is a campaigner with Survival International.

Survival Alert is a fortnightly update on the state of indigenous peoples around the world from Survival International. Founded in 1969, Survival International is the globe’s foremost organization working for tribal peoples rights.


Supporters of the tribal rights organization Survival International held an international protest earlier this month on U.N. Human Rights Day, urging Brazil to “Save the Awá,” Earth’s most threatened tribe. Dozens of protesters gathered outside Brazilian embassies and consulates in cities such as San Francisco, London, Madrid and Paris.

The protests marked the start of a new stenciling campaign that will spread the urgent message “Brazil: Save the Awá” around the world’s landmarks in the form of removeable stickers, paintings and chalk stencils. Survival is also asking its supporters and people like you to “get creative to save the Awá,” to find iconic landmarks, places and people and mark them with the message to the Brazilian government*. Anyone can get involved.

MORE: Colin Firth Asks: Will You Save These People? (Video)

Time is running out for the Awá, a tribe of around 460 members, 100 of whom are “uncontacted.” They live in the Amazon rainforest in northeastern Brazil, which provides them with everything they need for survival: Food, shelter and a spiritual home.

Loggers are known to have massacred whole families in recent decades, and spread diseases, to which the uncontacted Awá have little immunity: A common cold could kill them.

The uncontacted Awá live without contact with mainstream society. They are nomadic hunter-gatherers and constantly on the move, carrying everything they need with them: Children, pets, arrows and six-foot bows, which they use to hunt game with great skill.

Illegal loggers, settlers and ranchers are invading their land and cutting down the Awá’s forest, without which the tribe faces extinction. Loggers are known to have massacred whole families in recent decades, and spread diseases, to which the uncontacted Awá have little immunity: A common cold could kill them.

Since Survival launched its campaign for the Awá with the support of Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth in April, almost 50,000 messages have been sent to Brazil’s Justice Minister urging him to evict the illegal invaders from the Awá’s land.

In response, the government has started mapping out some of the areas where the loggers are operating, and the new head of Brazil’s indigenous affairs department has announced the Awá are at the top of her agenda. But this is not nearly enough. All the illegal invaders must be evicted from the Awá’s territory as a matter of urgency, for good.

Ingenuity, integrity and persistence can help save the most-threatened people on earth. (Photo: Survival International)

To ensure the Brazilian government takes action, the pressure needs to keep growing. Survival’s new stenciling campaign aims to create a visible groundswell that the authorities cannot ignore. The message “Brazil: Save the Awá” will appear in the most unexpected of places, on landmarks, in meetings, in the rainforest, serving as a constant reminder.

The authorities must know that Survival and its supporters will not go away until all the invaders have been evicted and the Awá can live peacefully on their land.

The Awá need your support. So get creative and become part of a global movement to save Earth’s most threatened tribe from extinction.

*Always respect other people’s property. Ideas on how you can make your mark are here.

Do you have a legal, visible way to prod the Brazilian government to take action to save the Awá? Leave it in COMMENTS.

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