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THE AYOREO: A forest-dwelling tribe facing serious danger

The Ayoreo are a native ethnic group living in the Chaco region, an area of dense, scrubby forest spanning Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay. Meaning “true people” in their native tongue, the Ayoreo are composed of around 5,600 members that are divided into sub-groups. They speak the Ayoero language, classified under Zamucoan, a small language family from Paraguay and Bolivia.

The usurpation of Ayoreo territory over the past century has led to the deterioration of their way of life. Most Ayoreo have been relocated to settlements where they have been forced to abandon their hunter-gatherer roots in favour of a sedentary lifestyle. These settled communities tend to be slums with poor conditions. Those who have come into contact with the outside world struggle with poverty and discrimination, especially in cities, and job opportunities are scarce. Many Ayoreo who have lost their land have no choice but to work as exploited labourers on the cattle ranches that have taken over their territory. There is only one group, the Totobiegosode, still living a nomadic life in voluntary isolation. Four or five families share a communal house made out of branches and dried mud, with each family having their own hearth. They nurture a deep connection to their territory, fishing, hunting, cultivating and gathering fruit and honey. Although no one has ever directly contacted them, footprints have been recorded and they have been seen in the distance. Large swathes of the Ayoreo’s ancestral territory, famed for its biological diversity, have already been destroyed, forcing those in voluntary isolation out of their homes.
Jun 22, 2015
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