Photo story: How 2013 was a year to celebrate for the world’s tribal peoples

A selection of photos from Survival International highlight some of the positive stories for tribal peoples last year

From the Dongria Kondh’s rejection of a bauxite mine in India to Vanity Fair’s coverage of the Earth’s most threatened tribe, there were many reasons for tribal peoples to celebrate in 2013.



Survival International’s campaign to stop ‘human safaris’ in India’s Andaman Islands gained an important victory, after the Supreme Court banned tourists from traveling along the road which cuts through the Jarawa reserve. By March 2013, however, the Supreme Court had reversed this interim order; Survival has continued to campaign for the road to be closed.




The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights ruled that the government of Kenya must not evict the Ogiek tribe from their land in the Mau Forest.




Just weeks after Survival launched a tourism boycott of India’s Andaman Islands to stop the degrading ‘human safaris’ to the Jarawa tribe, travel companies joined the boycott and over six thousand people pledged not to visit the islands until the tours were stopped, following worldwide media coverage.



The Brazilian authorities began an operation to remove eleven illegal ranches from the Yanomami territory in Brazil, in order to return the land to the Indians. At least three of the ranches, in the region of Ajarani, were closed. Survival has supported the Yanomami for decades; the Yanomami Park was created in 1992, following years of campaigning by Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, Survival International, and the Pro Yanomami Commission.

A Yanomami woman, Brazil



The Soliga tribe won an important court victory after its entire stock of honey was seized by forestry officials. The confiscation of honey was in direct violation of the 2006 Indian Forest Rights Act, which recognizes the rights of India’s tribal peoples, such as the Soliga, to live in and from their forests, and protect and manage their land. Tribal peoples like the Soliga have been living with and protecting the wildlife in their forests for countless generations, and despite severe constraints from forestry officials, they have remained determined to manage, harvest and protect their forests sustainably for current and future generations.

A Soliga girl



A groundbreaking new campaign was launched in India to challenge the deep-seated prejudice that tribal peoples are ‘backwards’ and ‘primitive’. Such attitudes are often used to justify the theft of their land and attempts to force them to change their ways of life. By November 2013, the message of the Proud Not Primitive campaign was being heard in India. The Hindu, one of the world’s largest speaking English newspapers, pledged to no longer use the term ‘primitive’ when referring to tribal peoples; an important success for the campaign.

A young adolescent Dongria boy in traditional dress visits the family



India’s Dongria Kondh tribe overwhelmingly rejected plans by the notorious British mining giant Vedanta Resources, for an open-pit bauxite mine in their sacred Niyamgiri Hills. Twelve Dongria villages voted unanimously against the mine during consultations ordered by India’s Supreme Court in April 2013, on the basis that their religious, cultural and social rights would be jeopardized if mining were to go ahead.

Dongria Kondh girls, India



Maasai people in Tanzania celebrated after the Prime Minister said he would scrap a plan to take 1,500 square miles from them in the name of conservation. The region of Loliondo will instead remain with the Maasai, who the Prime Minister said had taken ‘good care of the area’ since ‘time immemorial’.




The plight of the Awá, Earth’s most threatened tribe, reached millions of people worldwide in November and December when the tribe’s shocking story featured in Vanity Fair and the Sunday Times. Both spreads were illustrated with images by world-renowned photographer Sebastião Salgado. The Sunday Times Magazine’s piece was published on November 24, highlighting the Awá’s plight – described by a Brazilian judge as ‘genocide’ – and Survival’s global campaign urging Brazil’s Justice Minister to protect the Awá’s land before the Indians are pushed to extinction. The article traces Survival’s work back almost 45 years, noting its creation as the only organization that champions tribal peoples around the world following an article on genocide in the Amazon by acclaimed writer Norman Lewis.


Photographer Sebastião Salgado