January 31, 2012

Isolated Mashco-Piro Tribe Sightings Come With a Risk

A clan of Mashco-Piro Indians, a small tribe of previously isolated Amazon Indians in Peru, have been appearing along the riverbank in Madre de Dios with a message to tourists and outsiders—Leave us alone.

According to a Huffington Post article, Carlos Soria, a professor at Lima’s Catholic University who ran Peru’s park protection agency last year said the tribe is believed to number in the hundreds with the clan appearing at the river numbering close to 60, with 25 adults. The tribe lives in the Manu National Park.

Survival International who works to protect the isolated tribes of the Amazon said in a press release, the recent sightings are a result of gas and oil projects and illegal logging in the area.

The clan members have been blamed for two attacks along the riverbanks that involved bow-and-arrows since they were first seen last May, reported the Huffington Post.

Nicolas Shaco Flores 270x259 Isolated Mashco Piro Tribe Sightings Come With a Risk

Nicolás “Shaco” Flores was killed by an uncontacted tribe in Peru after attempting to contact them.

The most recent attack came when a lethal arrow was fired at Nicolas “Shaco” Flores – a member of a different tribe looking to make formal contact with the Mashco-Piro according to a BBC article.

This recent attack according to Survival International shows the dangers of trying to contact tribes that remain isolated. Flores, an indigenous Matsigenka, had been leaving food and gifts for the Mashco-Piro Indians for the past 20 years.

“Shaco’s death is a tragedy: he was a kind, courageous and knowledgeable man. He believed he was helping the Mashco-Piro. And yet in this tragic incident, the Mashco-Piro have once again expressed their adamant desire to be left alone,” said Glenn Shepard, an anthropologist and friend of Flores at his blog.

Spanish archaeologist Diego Cortijo, a member of the Spanish Geographical Society, said Flores was able to communicate with the Mashco-Piro because he spoke two related dialects, and that he often brought them supplies that included machetes and cooking pots according to the Huffington Post. Flores death now makes reaching an understanding with the tribe complicated.

“The problem is that ‘Shaco’ was the only person who could talk to them,” Cortijo said. “Now that he’s dead it’s impossible to make contact.”

Peruvian expert on uncontacted tribes, Beatriz Huertas, expressed to Survival how delicate and complex this situation is. “Contact could happen at any time,” Huertas said, “we must implement preventative measures and a contingency plan with local authorities as soon as possible to ensure this does not happen again.”

mashco piro on Riverbank www.uncontactedtribes.org  615x489 Isolated Mashco Piro Tribe Sightings Come With a Risk

Today's photos are the closest sightings of uncontacted Indians ever recorded on camera.

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October 2, 2012

Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal Rules in Favor of Indigenous Community

In a decision that could have far-reaching consequences, Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that an Amazonian indigenous community could limit outsiders’ access to its territory and upheld the principle of communal autonomy.

The ruling, which was handed down on September 13 but not made public until September 25, involves the Shipibo and Ese’eja community of Tres Islas, about 17 miles from the town of Puerto Maldonado in the southeastern Peruvian region of Madre de Dios.

Besides upholding the community’s territorial rights, the tribunal ordered a lower court to nullify the convictions of four former community leaders who had led the fight against illegal loggers, miners and transportation workers who were entering Tres Islas without permission.

“We’ve had to move heaven and earth to defend our territory, but we have won,” Esperanza Gonzales, one of the leaders facing a prison term, said at a press conference in Lima on September 28.

In an effort to stop the illegal mining, which destroyed forest and polluted streams on between 25 and 35 acres of the community’s 76,000-acre territory, the community placed a gate across a dirt road leading onto its lands and set up a guard post staffed by a community member.

Tres Islas1 615x410 Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal Rules in Favor of Indigenous Community

A sign at the entrance to Tres Islas warns motorists that the community is private property.

Two companies that provided transportation to illegal miners took the community to court on the grounds that the gate violated their freedom of movement. An initial court ruling in favor of the companies was upheld on appeal, and was ultimately supported by the Superior Court of Madre de Dios, which in September 2010 sentenced four community leaders to six years in prison and fines of about $2,500 each.

“Illegal miners were entering our territory to destroy our community,” Juana Payaba, former president of Tres Islas, who also faced a prison term, said at the press conference. “The palm swamps were drying up and the water was polluted.”

Besides pollution and deforestation, the unauthorized mining camps brought prostitution and contraband trade in gasoline into the territory, she said.

Raquel Yrigoyen, director of the International Institute on Law and Society in Lima, one of the lawyers who took the case to the Constitutional Tribunal, called it a “milestone for Peruvian jurisprudence.”

The case marks the first time that a Peruvian court has ruled that an indigenous community has a right not only to private property, like any citizen, but also to self-determination within its territory, as long as the aim is not secession from the country.

The Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the community’s construction of the gate and guard post “was a legitimate decision made in virtue of its communal autonomy, recognized by Article 89 of the Constitution.” It noted that the same article allows “native communities to make decisions about the use and free disposition of their lands, which implies the ability to decide who enters their territories.”

Although “freedom of movement is a fundamental right, it is subject to certain constraints, such as not invading other people’s land without the owners’ consent,” the decision stated.

In a break from past rulings, the tribunal based its decision not just on International Labor Organization Convention 169 on the rights of tribal and Indigenous Peoples, a treaty that Peru ratified in 1994, but on jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the lower courts must nullify their rulings to reflect the decision, but Yrigoyen said it will be important to follow up to ensure that all proceedings or court orders against the former leaders of Tres Islas – issued by the prosecutor’s office, the Public Ministry and the police – are canceled.

She said the community would also have to develop a plan for removing illegal miners and loggers who are operating on their lands.

“The ruling poses a challenge for all Indigenous Peoples to reestablish their authority over their territory, against anyone who enters illegally,” Yrigoyen said at the press conference.

Many indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon and Andes are involved in conflicts with mining and petroleum companies over the use of resources on their lands. Under Peruvian law, land rights only apply to the surface, while subsoil resources belong to the government, which reserves the right to grant concessions.

A new law – which reflects a key provision of Convention 169 – requires that the government consult indigenous communities about any development project that will affect their territories. The law has not yet been implemented, however. The first consultation is expected to be held in early 2013, and will involve an oil lease in Achuar territory in northern Peru.

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