In Paraguay, A Nomadic Tribe Tries to Hold its Ground

Uploaded by TheVJMovement on 12.05.2011

We have never seen an Indian in this area.
The Ayoreo Totobiegosode area is 100 kilometers away to the north.
This region is completely developed, as you can see.
The man speaking is a lawyer for Yaguarate Pora, one of the most powerful landowners in Paraguay.
Ten years ago they bought 70.000 hectares of forest,
to tear down and create a mega-farm
But on this same land, that he claims is uninhabited, live the Ayoreo Totobiegosode.
After running away from the White Man and his uncontrolled expansion
the Indians had to leave the forest and make contact with the outside world.
Porai is the leader of a community that consists of 17 families.
He abandoned the forest 25 years ago.
But as recent as 2004 he has met with relatives who still avoid any outside contact.
We used to live better in the woodland
A simple and wholesome life
That was before the deforestation and invasion of larger companies
Now the living is not easy because of all the missing trees.
And if the forest disappears we cannot subsist
and our culture will also disappear.
In 1993 these Indians started to claim their ancestral lands
Until now they have received title to nearly 150,000 hectares.
Their ultimate goal is to protect 550.000 hectares of woodland
The area has been declared Cultural and Natural heritage of the Ayoreo Totobiegosode.
In an attempt to meet these new legal requirements
the company Yaguarete Pora has destined the third of their land,
as a reservation for the Totobiegosode group.
We decided to elevate it to the level of Protected Forest Area
that's is a higher category in which plans are made for the preservation of the forest.
But their permission to fell trees was canceled by the Environmental Secretary
pointing to a lack of consideration for the nomadic Indian communities.
And so a terrible legal battle began.
The landlords managed to obtain an easing of the legal ban
and took advantage by deforesting under the control of the Forest Institute.
Those are the property limits.
Those are the first 1500 hectares created according to a forest grazing system.
created by leaving the larger trees in the forest standing.
It's not as if the company came and wanted to chop them all down.
The Indians are opposed to the partial deforestation.
But officials of the Forest Institute blame the lack of coherence between different public organizations.
If there was a nation-wide policy
neither the Environmental Secretary nor the Forest Institute
would be able to approve projects on protected indigenous land
In the end the so called area of Natural and Cultural Heritage
seems more of an ideal than a real safeguard against deforestation.
What should be done is the creation of a binding national Land Use Plan
that allows for these groups to live in voluntary isolation
in order to continue their traditional way of living.
To succeed in that, the government needs to be able expropriate the landlords.
But that would mean confronting the farming cooperatives in this territory
which own about 1,600,000 hectares and produce milk and meat.
Like Harry, a farmer of German descent
these colonists don't welcome the indigenous communities claims to land.
They think of them more as cheap labor than as the ancestral owners of this land.
Their main activity is to work for the local producers.
So they work much more on a day to day basis
at minimum wage and make good money!
There's lots of distrust and arbitrary decision-making going on.
If there is one community that benefits from the expropriations then it's the indigenous communities.
But when you visit their settlements you don't see any progress.
And they are asking the state to expropriate the land,
a state that clearly doesn't have the money to do it.
For many landlords and colonists
keeping a small group of Indian families in a huge territory that they will never make productive
its simply outrageous
You're not going to see a naked Ayoreo in the woodland living on honey anymore!
The eviction of this indigenous communities began 70 years ago.
when a group of Protestant Mennonite colonists first settled in Paraguay.
The Indians were driven further into the woods by the deforestation.
Diseases decimated their number.
And to complete the destruction process North American evangelist missions arrived
with the aim of converting the "heretics".
The last generation of Ayoreo Totobiegosode was born outside the forest
Cars, houses, clothes and modern food meant cultural assimilation with the outside world and a loss of their own culture.
Some ended up working for the landlords, others sell craft-work,
there only a few who hunt to survive
We sell things to buy groceries, noodles, rice...
But there is something that the Totobiegosode are not willing to compromise on
In memory of their ancestors who never integrated in the White Man's society
they'll continue to fight for the totality of their land
There has been some progress, but we still have a long way to go
So far we have recovered part of our territory
The struggle is endless and difficult
but we are going to keep on going
until the original amount of land is restored to us
The government claims it can't guarantee the welfare of the indigenous people that decide to live isolated lives.
With the rising pressure of advancing civilization over their land,
the outlook for communities such as the Totobiegosode is very bleak.