For decades, the indigenous tribes of the Amazon rainforest have been struggling to protect their ancestral lands from logging. They have been threatened by timber companies and the government and forced to flee their homes. Some have even been killed over their refusal to allow the deforestation of their land. An estimated 257 environmental activists, mostly indigenous people, were killed in Brazil and Peru between 2010 and 2015.
In this five-minute video — the first runner-up in the 2016 Yale Environment 360 Video Contest — filmmaker Adam Spencer focuses on the Nuevo Amanecer Hawai, a Peruvian branch of the Ashaninka tribe fighting to protect their forest. Spencer tells the story through the eyes of Edgar Sermeño Durand, an environmental advocate who was first captured by, and later became friends with, the Nuevo Amanecer Hawai while hiking through the Peruvian Amazon. Using Durand’s original footage and interviews with tribal leaders, Spencer provides a rare, first-hand view of the Ashaninka’s struggle to obtain legal rights to their land, fight off physical attacks from mercenaries, and deal with the assassination of their leader, Chief Mauro Pio Peña, who was killed by timber interests for his outspoken opposition to logging.
“They come here like terrorists,” one Ashaninka man says. “Because of the companies with the logging concessions, because of these natural resource traffickers, members of our community are now facing death.”
About the contest: “Ashaninka: The Fight for Trees and Rights” is the first runner-up in the 2016 Yale Environment 360 Video Contest. Entries were received from five continents, with a prize of $2,000 going to the first-place winner.