Monday, February 06, 2012

Colombia's Nukak Maku

For thousands of years the Nukak lived peacefully in their forest. Only a decade ago, the Nukak Maku, a Colombian indigenous community, lived a life disconnected from the modern world. Nomadic hunter-gatherers, they roamed a chunk of the Amazon three times the size of London, spending days trekking to one corner just to fish, then weeks to another to hunt.
"...Then the white man arrived. In the 20-odd years since, half their population has been wiped out, their territory has been invaded, and they've been driven out of the forest" says Stephen Corry, director of Survival International in the UK.. Anthropologists estimate they used to number more than 2,000 but the population has fallen to fewer than 600, bringing fears of extinction.

Driven out of their territory by the Farc left-wing guerillas, the tribe occupies a shabby glade half the size of a football field on the outskirts of a frontier town, San José del Guaviare. Since leaving the jungle, they have almost lost their traditional ways. Since the Nukak were first "contacted" in 1988, the illnesses of the modern world have had devastating effects. The community suffers from skin infections, respiratory diseases, diarrhoea and other common illnesses.

"We never had these diseases before," says Monica. "If we stay here much longer, our people will completely lose our ways, and we will just die off, far from the land where we belong,"

As a result of daily difficulties and the inability to hunt, many are depressed and have other mental health problems. Missionaries have taught them to wear clothes and eat modern food. Whereas previously they had no sense of money, the Nukak people now spend their days begging in the town.

Fellipe, a man in his 50s says "Now I'm not sure we could even survive in the jungle, it feels like we are doomed to the modern world."

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