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    Tuesday, December 8, 2015

    Awa People of Brazil Adopt Animals To Breastfeed

    Nature: The Awa tribe lives deep in the Amazon in such perfect harmony with their jungle home that they even breast feed the animals
    Pushed to brink of extinction, extraordinary photos of the Awa Amazon tribe so at one with nature they breastfeed SQUIRRELS
    The Awa tribe living in Amazonian forests in east Brazil has been all but wiped out by colonists and illegal ranchers
    Tens of thousands of them lived in settlements in Brazil's Maranhao state 500 years ago, only around 300 remain
    The Awa love animals so much the women breastfeed them to become 'hanima' and treated as part of the family
    In return, the animals help them with everyday tasks such as cracking open nuts and getting fruit from high trees

    Deep in the Amazon lives the world's most endangered tribe, an ancient group who trudge through the forests of eastern Brazil carrying everything they own - their children, their weapons and their pets.

    They have been pushed to the brink of extinction by European colonists who enslaved them and ranchers who stole the land they need to survive.
    And yet, they live in complete harmony with their jungle home. Most Awa families adopt several wild animals as pets and remarkably, the women breastfeed them until they are fully grown.
    These people are so close to being wiped out forever, that they are kept safe, away from the modern world.

    As a result, very few people have ever met the Awa. Photographer Domenico Pugliese is one of those lucky enough to spend time with this remarkable tribe - and even became a source of amusement for them.

    Childhood: The tribe's children grow up with animals by their sides, as most Awa people adopt several wild creatures as family pets.

    Protected: Very few people have ever come into contact with the Awa tribe, after they were pushed to the brink of extinction by colonists.

    Pugliese first met the Awa in 2009, after a journalist friend suggested he accompany him and an anthropologist on the two-day journey down the river to then unprotected piece of rainforest the tribe called home.

    'They heard the sound of the speedboat's engine and they came down to the river bank,' he recalled. 'The impact was like being in another world. The sensation could not be explained.'
    But, in amongst this feeling of awe, it was the social niceties which started to concern Pugliese.
    'You extend your hand to shake it [in greeting] and then think, I do not know what I need to do,' he told MailOnline.

    What the Awa thought of this stranger arriving in their world was not immediately clear - but they soon found something to laugh at.

    'They do not understand what a grown man is doing being single, without a family. They look at me and they try to give me advice. They do not know where I am coming from. They do not have a concept of the world.
    'I cannot explain to them where I'm coming from, I can't explain the lifestyle to them. For them, it is unbelievable to be a man who does not have a family.'

    Family is all important to the Awa, and it is not confined to humans. Their pets, who help them with everyday tasks such as cracking nuts, gathering fruit from high trees and even watching over them while they sleep, are as much a part of the family as their children.
    Hunters: Photographer Domenico Pugliese is one of those lucky enough to spend time with this tribe, for which family is all important.
    Home: Awa people are helped in their everyday tasks, such as cracking nuts and gathering fruit, by their pets, which are part of the family.
    They keep wild pigs, squirrels, parakeets, and large rodents known as agoutis but their favourite pets are monkeys, according to charity Survival International who have campaigned for the Awa's protection.
    The primates are an important source of food to the Awa but once a baby has been brought into the family and breast fed, they will never eat it. Even if it returns to the forest, they will recognise it as 'hanima' - or part of the family.
    Pugliese said: 'They feed the squirrels and monkeys like they feed their kids, breast feeding.

    'It highlights how far we have come from where we were. They are so close to nature. In fact, it is not even close - they are part of nature.'

    But that harmony is being eroded, and risks being lost forever.

    Of the tens of thousands of Awa people who lived in sprawling settlements across Maranhao state when Portuguese settlers landed 500 years ago, only 400 or so remain today. Around 60 of them have never had any contact with the outside world.

    Almost all of them were wiped out by diseases including smallpox, measles and flu imported by the colonists. Those who survived were enslaved and put to work on rubber and sugar cane plantations.
    In 1835, after centuries of oppression, the tribes of Maranhao rose up against their European rulers in a five year revolt that ended in the mass extermination of around 100,000 indigenous people throughout the state.
    Endangered: Of the tens of thousands of Awa people who lived in settlements across Maranhao state 500 years ago, only 300 remain today.
    Threatened: Almost all were wiped out by imported diseases including smallpox, measles and flu, and those who survived were enslaved.
    Family: A young boy with one of his family's adopted pets, which even once returned to the wild are still considered a member of the tribe.
    Indigenous: The Awa people, who are so at home in nature, are still at threat from the wild fires that rage through the Amazon jungle.
    Isolated: In an uprising after centuries of oppression, in 1835, around 100,000 indigenous people were killed. The remaining population live in a tiny jungle home near Barra do Corda........
     The Awa were forced to adopt a nomadic lifestyle to escape the genocide. Over the next 200 years, they became skilled hunters and learned to build shelters in a few hours, only to abandon them days later.
    With their new, nomadic lifestyle, they lost the knowledge of farming or even how to light a fire.
    In 1982, the World Bank and EU gave Brazil a loan of around £600million to protect the lands of its indigenous people but illegal loggers continued to threaten their existence for another 30 years.

    Around 450 tribespeople were murdered between 2003 and 2010, according to the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI).
    Three years ago, an eight year old Awa girl was said to have been burned alive by 'ranchers' when she strayed outside her protected land. The leader of another tribe, Luis Carlos Guajajaras, said she was killed as a warning to other native people.

    The government announced that all 'invaders' had been removed from Awa land last year but today they face an even greater danger - the wildfires raging through the Amazon.
    The blazes which have wiped out vast areas of forest on the eastern fringe of the Amazon known as 'earth's lungs' are said to have been started by the ranchers who want to turn their land into plantations.

    Tatuxa'a, an Awa spokesman, said: 'Today I went to the forest and I was surrounded by smoke and dust. There is fire everywhere and it is very close to our communities.

    'We need the government to help us. We alone cannot put out the fires, as there are many. The forest is rich with fruit and game... and it is all being destroyed! Our stream is drying up too. Where will we hunt? Where will we collect honey? I am very sad and worried today.'

    The jungle, that is slowly being eradicated by fire and farmland, is vital to the Awa's survival. 
    But even those who come to help the Awa could unintentionally destroy the delicate balance - something Pugliese was acutely aware of.
    Smiling: Primates are an important food source for the Awa but once a baby has been brought in and breast fed, they will never eat it..
    Relaxed: A tribe member poses for a photographer from Survival International, which has campaigned for the protection of the group.
    Modernised: Outsiders can easily destroy the delicate balance of the tribe, even with seemingly harmless gifts such as t-shirts.

    Lifestyle: A woman with a child while bathing in a river in the middle of the forest, which is slowly being eradicated by fire and farming.
     In the beginning, he worried gifts like t-shirts were destroying their way of life even further - but the Awa are particularly fond of t-shirts.

    'They love to have t-shirts,' he said. 'I don't know where they think the t-shirts come from - they can't imagine a factory.
    'Maybe they think it is coming from the trees. After all, every day, they get their shopping from the jungles.'
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