Non-indigenous settlers involved with destroying Awa land in Brazil are leaving, according to reports from Survival International (SI) and Brazilian sources.
The campaign to save the Awa people of northern Brazil reached a milestone recently, as the Brazilian government had set March 9 as the deadline for expelling all of the non-indigenous ranchers, loggers and other settlers who have devastated a large portion of Awa territory.
Government sources reported that some families had left before the deadline and hundreds of others have been cooperating with government outreach efforts aiming to help re-locate the non-indigenous ranchers, loggers and others, some of whom are eligible for various government assistance services.
The office of the Secretary General of the President of Brazil announced that the government was providing logistical support for the move and that Operation Awa, an "inter-ministerial" program, was donating trucks and other vehicles along with workers who were taking apart structures within the Awa territory.
For SI and others, these announcements were positive vindication for a sustained effort.
"After the launch of the campaign in April 2012, the Brazilian government announced that the Awá case was a priority, and sent a ground squad of at least 200 soldiers, police officers and government agents at the beginning of 2014 to remove the invaders. Official sources have confirmed that the launch of Operation Awá is due to international pressure," stated the SI press release.
"More than a third of the forest in one of the Awá’s territories has already been destroyed," SI reported, "and the tribe is worried about the safety of their uncontacted relatives who are forced to live constantly on the run from heavily armed loggers."
Brazil's National Institute of Special Research noted that between 2000 and 2009, illegal logging operations had destroyed approximately 89,000 acres of forest in Awa territory. The Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Natural Renewable Resources is in the process of measuring the full extent of deforestation caused by the illegal operations.
For now, however, SI and allies are looking at this latest development as a victory.
Nixiwaka Yawanawá, an indigenous Amazonian working with SI, said in February, "The Brazilian authorities are removing the invaders from Awá land, thanks to Survival’s campaign and the international concern. For the Awá to survive, the government must guarantee the long-term protection of their land. If not, they will be destroyed, like so many other tribes in Brazil’s history."