Lost tribe emerges from rainforest after 100 years

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The Independent US

A tribe of Brazilian Indians, thought to have been extinct for nearly a century, has emerged from one of the most remote areas of the Amazon rainforest to protest against the creation of a national park on its land.

A tribe of Brazilian Indians, thought to have been extinct for nearly a century, has emerged from one of the most remote areas of the Amazon rainforest to protest against the creation of a national park on its land.

The Naua were once the most populous indigenous people in the region, with thousands of members, but the Brazilian authorities believed they had died out in the 1920s. Yesterday, Antonio Pereira Neto, spokesman for the government's National Indian Foundation (NIF), said: "These people have survived and thankfully we can identify them by their tribal heritage."

The remaining 250 or so members of the Naua tribe were discovered by government engineers who were planning a new national park in the Acre region. They came across the Indians while making a survey of the mountain range where they live.

NIF representatives were called in to make an identification. They were able to converse because the vast majority of the Naua spoke Portuguese - the language of Brazil - learnt through extensive contact with whites. Around one-third of the surviving Naua are children under 10 years old.

"They are definitely authentic Naua and they are entitled to be treated as indigenous people and as such must have their rights respected," said Mr Neto. "They told us that they didn't want to leave their land because they had always been there."

The last definite sighting of the tribe was in 1906, when a newspaper in Acre published an article headlined: "Last Naua woman marries." Anthropologists believed that the woman had children but that her line died out some 15 years later. It has now emerged that the Naua survived and continued to thrive in the jungle.

Since its apparent disappearance, the tribe is believed to have had regular dealings with whites. They worked primarily as rubber tappers in a remote jungle region on the Peruvian border, and through this they lost most of their cultural traditions, including their indigenous language.

"The main reason why no-one realised that the Naua had survived was because the Naua had lost all their traditions," said Mr Neto.

The NIF is planning to launch a claim for a Naua reservation. Under Brazilian law, all indigenous people are entitled to demarcated land in their traditional areas.

But if their land were to be designated a national park, the tribe would be forcibly moved to another region because no humans are allowed to live in such environmentally sensitive areas.

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