Oil Company Pulls Out of Amazonian Land Inhabited by Uncontacted Tribes

March 16, 2017 at 9:14 pm

Survival International – a non-profit that protects indigenous peoples from missionaries and mercenaries – just scared a Canadian oil company out of one of the last safe havens for uncontacted hunter-gatherer tribes in the world, deep in the Amazon jungle.

In 2012, the Peruvian government had awarded the company the right to explore for oil inside the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier, a region teeming with biodiversity and home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else on Earth.

The oil company caved this week after years of campaigning by Survival International and several indigenous organizations:

“[The company] has made the decision to relinquish its exploration rights in Block 135… effective immediately… We wish to reiterate the company’s commitment to conduct its operations under the highest sustainability and human rights guidelines,” Pacific E&P’s Institutional Relations and Sustainability Manager wrote in a letter to Survival International.

Survival International Director Stephen Corry called the letter “great news” for all those who’ve struggled tohalt the genocide that has swept across the Americas since the arrival of Columbus.”

From the rubber boom of the 1890s to the deforestation of the 1990s, the ancestral lands of uncontacted Amazonian tribes have been getting smaller and smaller. They’ve had to flee deeper and deeper into the jungle.

When the Canadian oil giant got the go ahead to excavate the last of this frontier five years ago, many of the tribes decided to make voluntary contact with organizations like Survival International as a last ditch effort to avoid extinction.

The non-profit argues these tribes’ desire to remain “isolated” and untouched by industrial civilization should be respected, as every time they are contacted (whether by missionaries, corporations or governments) they are made “vulnerable to violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources and to diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.”

Over half of the Matis were wiped out by malaria and hepatitis when the Brazilian government contacted them in the 1970s. Like many indigenous Americans traumatized by outside contact, they stopped having children. By 1983, only 87 Matis survived.

A neighboring hunter-gatherer tribe on the Peruvian side of the border called the Matsés has been fighting for the right to exist since the government bombed them with napalm, stole their communal houses and built a road through their territory in the 1960s. Loggers nearly wiped them out again in the 1990s, and since 2012, they’ve been resisting oil exploration.

“I don’t want my children to be destroyed by oil and war. That’s why we’re defending ourselves… and why we Matsés have come together,” said a Matsés man from in a recent tribal meeting. “The oil companies … are insulting us and we won’t stay silent as they exploit us on our homeland. If it’s necessary, we’ll die in the war against oil.”

If the members of the last 100 or so uncontacted tribes on the planet disappear, so will thousands of years of knowledge of plant medicine and living in balance with the ecosystem, argues Survival International.

Please support Survival International’s efforts to fight for the human right to exist outside of industrial civilization.