Destruction of Cultural Heritage – Amazonian Tribal People

Wiped out for standing in the way of progress

Project COBRA – Creative Commons

Before the DAY is over, an Indigenous homeland will be clear-cut, strip-mined, or flooded by a dam.

Before the WEEK is over, an Indigenous person will be killed or displaced, because of economic interests or simply because he or she has a different culture.

Before the YEAR is over, dozens of languages could disappear forever, taking with them ancient worldviews and a priceless record of earth's biodiversity

- Cultural Survival (

There are more than 150 million tribal people in over 60 countries around the globe. Their land rights are cemented in international law but are often not respected or protected in practice. The Awá are an Indian tribe in Brazil, some of whom still remain uncontacted. They are under an existential threat by loggers, settlers and ranchers who are invading their land and thus their only livelihood. These are one of the last nomadic Amazonian tribes in existence.

‘Every day as the white population by our reserve increases so do diseases like malaria and flu, and we have to share the game with the settlers. They have guns, so they kill more game than us. We are very worried about the lack of game and being able to feed our children in the future. Without the forest we’ll be gone, we’ll be extinct’. - To’o, an Awá tribes-man.

© D. Cortijo/Survival/

The uncontacted Indian tribes of Peru a further example. Peru has some of the world’s last commercially-viable mahogany forests, and illegal loggers, emboldened by lack of effective state control, have been exploiting these areas, the home of Peruvian tribes, at will.

Leaders of these countries have the power to stop this by sending in the federal police to restrain the loggers. This, however, is not happening. Making the destruction of Indigenous and cultural heritage a crime against future generations would add impetus and pressure on leaders to act. The crime of omission, of not acting, would also fall on national leaders since by failure to act they are allowing a crime against future generations to occur.

The basic right for clean water is a constant struggle in many parts of the word. (CC)

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognises “the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples which derive from their political, economic and social structures and from their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies, especially their rights to their lands, territories and resources".

UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity affirms that ‘respect for the diversity of cultures, tolerance, dialogue and cooperation, in a climate of mutual trust and understanding are among the best guarantees of international peace and security’ as well as stating that cultural diversity is ‘the common heritage of humanity and should be recognized and affirmed for the benefit of present and future generations’.

Building on this existing legal and treaty framework, making cultural and Indigenous heritage destruction a crime against future generations would bring the above-mentioned declarations together and add another desperately needed layer of protection to the most vulnerable of minorities.

In our view, when individuals act despite knowing the that their actions could gravely or irreparably imperil the health, means of survival or safety of a given human population, - this should constitute a crime against future generations.

Read other examples of crimes against future generations: Arctic Drilling, Bottom Trawling, Denying Girls an EducationNuclear Weapons, Casino Finance, Razing the Rainforest

"Yes moko, just like the sea which has to move its tides
so we can collect Kaimoana at certain times.
Rules give harmony to our lives
so we live with
minimum conflicts.
Working in harmony with others, ae moko, it’s nature’s
act of saying,
Let us make music all together
if not in reality — then make it your dream."

WFC Councillor Pauline Tangiora

Future Justice… about thinking and acting differently, based on respect, dignity and mutual trust

…considers not just what is happening now, but the effects of our actions in the years, decades and centuries to come

… is a means of creating new rules for how we live and work, pass laws and run countries

…is the giving of rights to the poorest, the weakest, the ignored, to the planet and to the other living creatures we share it with

…is a protection for all the people yet to be born,  whose lives we are blighting before they have even started

…is about what we do now.  Our actions today will determine the conditions of life for centuries to come