Fighting back: Races on the rebound
Asháninka Around 45,000 Asháninka live mainly on the Peruvian side of the border with Brazil, their homeland threatened by deforestation and the cocaine trade. Yet working with Cool Earth, 15 villages, with 2,151 inhabitants, have formed a network against logging and have not lost a single tree in the last five years. With help from Rainforest Foundation UK, they have also been able to map their territories and gain legal titles to lands. The struggle is far from over but the Asháninka’s voice is finally being heard. Circassians This ancient Caucasian people had their own confederated state in 1830, with a population of four million and a capital, Sochi. In 1864, the Russians forcibly expelled 1.5 million Circassians – at least 400,000 died – and only 700,000 still live in the Caucasus, with another 3.5 million abroad. In 1994, the UN recognised the International Circassian Association, which strives to preserve the language, promote the culture and persuade the Russian government to let exiles go home. Although two-thirds of the population in the Circassian autonomous republic of Adygea are Russian, their language is officially recognised and they dominate the state’s political elite. Nez Perce In the 1830s, it was thought that there were 6,000 Nez Perce; today there are just over 3,500. Forced to flee their ancestral lands, they live on a reservation in Idaho but have acquired 66 sq km of their old land in Oregon, which they run as a nature reserve. Their language is in danger but their economy is vibrant. Enxet The part of northern Paraguay these hunter-gatherers called home is a cattle ranchers’ paradise. Many of the 17,000 surviving Enxets live on plots bought for them by various religious groups. Yet there is real hope for the future. The Paraguayan government has agreed to expropriate 145 sq km of territory from a German landowner and return it to the Enxet, a decision that should benefit 156 families. Suruí
In the 1960s and 1970s, 4,700 Suruí were killed by diseases they had no immunity from as the Trans-Amazon Highway was built through their Rondônia homeland. At one point, only 300 survived. That has since risen to 1,300. The Suruí have now stopped deforestation on their land, and diversified economically.
How can you help?
1. Don’t go on human safaris Sounds obvious, but this demeaning, destructive trade is still flourishing in the Andaman Islands where it endangers the Jarawas' way of life. 2. Get involved A letter of protest to the right government may sound futile, but think of each letter as a pebble that could tilt the balance in favour of the right action. 3. Donate money Organisations such as Survival International and the Society for Threatened Peoples aren’t lavishly financed so every donation or purchase helps. 4. Stop racist coverage Don’t refer to indigenous peoples as ‘primitive’ or ‘stone age’. Survival International runs a campaign to discourage the use of such racist terms in the media. 5. Be a responsible traveller The travel industry can be part of the problem but the right kind of travel can be part of the solution. For example, in Ecuador, the Cofán, Huaorani and Quechua peoples have developed their own tourist enterprises to help fight the threat of oil development. Main image: El Molo woman and child (Shutterstock)