Trading a bow and arrow for a laptop

Friday, June 15, 2007 at 5:08 PM



Recently, several of us on the Google Earth team had the great honor to meet with Chief Almir, leader of the Surui Indian tribe in the Brazilian Amazon. Chief Almir had travelled for many hours and thousands of miles to our Google headquarters in Mountain View, in order to propose an unusual partnership. He had come to ask for our help in protecting the rainforest lands as well as the culture and lives of his people.

The Amazon rainforest and its indigenous peoples are disappearing rapidly. This has serious consequences locally and globally, both for our environment and for the cultural diversity of our planet. If you look at the Surui land today in Google Earth (search on "Ministro Andreazza, Brazil" and then head due east), you'll see that their "island" of healthy, green, primary rainforest is surrounded almost completely by clear-cut, barren land. The stark contrast at their boundary is dramatic, and begins to convey what is at stake.



During his visit, Chief Almir proposed that, in collaboration with their partner, the Amazon Conservation Team, we work together to annotate Google Earth with informative markers and photographs that show the Surui villages, hunting grounds, sacred sites, and cultural sites as well as areas where they've found illegal mining and logging incursions onto their land. By doing so, he hopes to raise global awareness of the Surui people's struggle to preserve their land and culture, by reaching the more than 200 million Google Earth users around the world.

In the early 1980's, Almir's father, Chief Marimo, entered into tribal legend by single-handedly stopping a logging truck full of men with machine guns and revolvers, using only his bow and arrow. His son, Chief Almir, told us that he had realized that the time had now come "to put down the bow and arrow, and pick up the laptop."

We're excited to help Chief Almir on this project. It will take time, but when completed, we hope that it will have a positive impact on the lives of the Surui people and other Amazon tribes.