Daily Video

December 12, 2014

Peru’s indigenous people demand action on environmental threats

As world leaders gather in Lima, Peru for a climate change summit, indigenous tribes are speaking out about environmental problems and deforestation that is endangering their survival.

Changing weather patterns have prevented farmers from planting, according to Grimaldo Villacorta, an indigenous group leader from the Ucayali region.

Illegal logging and mining have also harmed the region and damaged the homes of indigenous tribes. About 80 percent of the timber from Peru is cut illegally, according to the World Bank.

This increased strain on indigenous land is displacing some tribes that were previously isolated, according to anthropologist Beatriz Huertaz. At least 15 tribes in Peru live apart from the rest of civilization, according to Survival International. Some of these tribes are now reaching out to the government to secure protection for their lands.

“It’s necessary to officially recognize their lands and to establish a series of protection mechanisms to guarantee their lives, their health and the right…to decide for themselves what lives they want to live,” Huertaz said.

But this advocacy can be risky in one of the most dangerous countries for environmental activists. In September, Peruvian environmental activist Edwin Chota was murdered while working for legal recognition and protection for the land of the Ashaninka tribe.

Warm up questions
  1. Where is Peru? What major river runs through it?
  2. What does culture mean? Can you give some examples of it?
  3. What does it mean to be to be a native or indigenous person?
Critical thinking questions
  1. How is the change in the environment of the Amazon River Basin area affecting the indigenous tribes who live there?
  2. Why is the Amazon important? What are the similarities and differences between activists working to protect the Amazon jungle and activists working for the rights of indigenous people who live in the Amazon?
  3. What is a government’s responsibility to protect the culture, rights and lands of indigenous people?
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