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Last Updated: Friday, 8 April, 2005, 21:55 GMT 22:55 UK
Paraguay tribe faces bleak future
By Tom Gibb
BBC News, Sao Paulo

Map of Paraguay
Lawmakers in Paraguay have refused to protect a forest which is home to one of the last uncontacted Indian tribes in the region.

Conservationists condemned the decision by congress - and warned it could spell the end for the Ayoreo tribe.

They say the move opens the way for cattle-ranchers and loggers, who are already encroaching on the land.

They accused the government of ignoring constitutional guarantees of land rights for indigenous peoples.

Endangered habitat

The Ayoreo are one of South America's last uncontacted group of Indians living south of the Amazon.

Their word for white people means, literally, "people who do strange things".

Looking at their recent history it is not hard to see why.

First, many were hunted out of the forest by Protestant missionaries who argued this was necessary to save their souls.

More recently, cattle-ranchers and settlers have been bulldozing the forest and fencing off land which the Paraguayan government sold them for almost nothing.

Today, only six or seven family groups of Ayoreo are thought to still be surviving in the forest, hunting wild pig and anteaters with spears.

The London-based group Survival International, which campaigns for indigenous rights, said the latest decision by congress to reject the creation of a reserve would spell the end for the Ayoreo - forcing them to become day workers on ranches.

This is what has happened to most of those who have already left the forest, many of whom live in camps in abject poverty.

Desperate plight of Paraguayan Indians
11 Mar 01 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Country profile: Paraguay
04 Feb 05 |  Country profiles

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