Google tech helps Amazonian tribe, where government has failed them

Where doesn't Google reach? When an Amazonian tribal chief needed help to fight against illegal road-building, he turned to Google for the latest state-of-the art satellite imagery, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Where doesn't Google reach? When an Amazonian tribal chief needed help to fight against illegal road-building, he turned to Google for the latest state-of-the art satellite imagery, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Chief Almir Surui, the only college-educated member of the Surui tribe of Brazil, traveled all they way from deep in Brazil's Amazon to the Googlplex in Silicon Valley to ask for help in monitoring illegal logging and mining on the tribe's 600,000-acre reserve located about 1,600 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro.

The tribe has tried to stop miners and loggers from entering the protected lands, but that has led to 11 Surui being killed. Brazilian government officials have failed to stop the violence, so Chief Almir Surui has turned to Google.

Google was ameanable to the chief's pleas to take images of the reserve and include them on Google Earth in order to raise awareness of the conflict.

"The Amazon rain forest and its indigenous peoples are disappearing rapidly, which has serious consequences both locally and globally," said Google Earth spokeswoman Megan Quinn. "This project can raise global awareness of the Surui people's struggle to preserve their land and culture by reaching more than 200 million Google Earth users around the world."

Not only would the satellite images keep an eye on illegal activities, but it would help with the cataloging medicinal plants, hunting grounds, ancestral cemeteries and sacred sites.

"We want people to know that these territories are not just empty swaths of green as seen by satellite, but the homes, supermarkets, museums, libraries of a people who depend on these areas for their survival," said Vasco van Roosmalen, Brazil director for Amazon Conservation Team, an Arlington, Va., organization that provided the tribe's 22 villages with laptop computers, handheld Global Positioning System devices and satellite maps.

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