We live in a beautiful world.
For generations, tribal peoples have been the guardians of their diverse habitats – tundra, sea-ice, mountains, deserts, oceans and prairies; for most, land and life are inextricably linked. Earth is the bedrock of their lives, the provider of food and shelter, the sacred burial ground of their ancestors and the spiritual focus of their lives.
Most have lived on their lands for thousands of years, and know their territories intimately. The Sentinelese, who are believed to have lived in the Andaman Islands for about 60,000 years, retreated to high ground when they saw the ocean recede during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, following ancestral knowledge. The Innu of Canada are as in tune with the rocky barrens and frozen waterways of their homeland ‘Nitassinan’, as are the Maasai tribe with the highland plains and savannah woodland of East Africa and the uncontacted tribes of south-eastern Peru with the Amazon rainforest.
As you read this, however, tribal lands are being destroyed. It is often the loss of lands that lies at the root of the appalling suffering they face. ‘This here is my life, my soul’, said Marcos Veron, a Guarani-Kaiowá man from Brazil. ‘If you take this away from me, you take my life.’
Survival International has recently launched its ‘Tribes from the Air’ gallery – an audio-video collaboration between Survival and leading international photographers – which shows the remarkable stewardship of tribal peoples when managing their own lands and resources, and the enchanting beauty of the world’s indigenous territories.