“I recently came across the most heart-breaking story I’ve ever heard, and it moved me so much I’d like to share it with you.
Jakarewyj was an Awá Indian woman. I never met her, but I know that she lived peacefully with her family in the Amazon until a few years ago – when hundreds of armed loggers targeted her forest, and her life was changed forever.
The deepest parts of the forest, where she could find refuge, were invaded one by one. Most of her family were killed. Eventually she had no choice but to flee to a nearby village. She’s pictured above. You can see the trauma in her face. But it was nothing compared with what was to come.
Within weeks her sanctuary had turned into a nightmare. She caught flu and TB, diseases often fatal to isolated tribal people. She became emaciated and close to death – but, miraculously, she survived. Knowing now that life outside the forest was as dangerous as life inside, she went back, covering her tracks with leaves to avoid detection.
It was a fateful decision. One afternoon a logger spotted Jakarewyj lying in her hammock, and shot her in the back. But even that wasn’t the final outrage.
For what the logger didn’t know was that Jakarewyj was already dead, TB having finally claimed her life the day before. A bullet in her back was just the last indignity for a woman who sought only to live, in peace, in the forests she loved and knew like the back of her hand.
Dispossessed. Infected. Killed. Disfigured even after death. Does it really have to be this way?
I believe that the death of Jakarewyj shames us all. “Our” society has inflicted so much death and destruction on tribal peoples in the last five centuries.
Brazil’s government pledged long ago to protect the lands of the country’s first inhabitants, but it has stood by as one by one their territories are invaded, sold off, cut down or simply burnt to the ground. By allowing these illegal invasions to continue, sometimes even encouraging them, it condemned Jakarewyj to death.
Jakarewyj’s land should have been protected, the loggers should have been expelled long ago. And I know that nothing will change unless all of us determine that we won’t allow these atrocities to happen again.
That’s why I’m proud to be an Ambassador for Survival International, and why I urge you to donate to them as generously as you can.
Survival is a unique organization – fiercely independent, and utterly committed to standing up for tribal peoples who would otherwise be brutally swept aside in the name of “progress”.
Survival accepts no government funding. Its campaigns last for decades. And it will not stop until tribal peoples are respected as valued members of our modern world, and no longer have to fear a bullet in the back.
I can think of no cause more important than this. Please give and join now.”