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Google launches cultural map of Amazon tribe

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Google on Saturday unveiled a cultural map of Brazil's Surui indigenous people, a digital tool that will help the Amazonian tribe share their vast knowledge of the forest and fight illegal logging.

The map, the result of a five-year partnership between Surui chief Almir and the U.S. technology giant, was released online for the first time at a business forum held on the sidelines of the U.N. Rio+20 conference on sustainable development here.

The map, a collection of picture and videos mapping historical sites and offering 3D visualization of Surui territory in the northwestern Brazilian state of Rondonia, is available on the site www.paiter.org as well as on Google Earth.

Donning a multi-colored feather wreath, chief Almir hailed the project that “shows the value of our culture to the world through Google.”

Almir, who proposed the idea of the map to Google during a visit to the United States five years ago, told a press conference that he was particularly proud of the contribution Surui youths made to the project, including narration.

Rebecca Moore, Google Earth Outreach leader, described it as Google's first such project with an indigenous people.

“We really believe that this is ground-breaking, ground-breaking for Google,” she added. “The Surui people and Google worked together to bring the story of the forest to the global community.”

Kristen Coco, a deputy spokesperson for the business forum, hailed the map as an “excellent example of innovation and successful collaboration between the private sector and indigenous peoples.”

Google also aired the world premiere of a new documentary titled “Trading Bows and Arrows with Laptops: Carbon and Culture,” which chronicles its five-year partnership with the Surui people.

“When you fly over Surui territory, you can see it's a beautiful virgin forest, but it is surrounded by deforestation,” Moore said.

Almir said he chose to announce the project at the Rio+20 conference to raise awareness of the need for a sustainable use of the forests and to preserve the way of life of indigenous peoples.

He said his 1,300-strong tribe plans to use the map as well as Android smartphones provided by Google to monitor and denounce illegal logging around its territory.

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Rebecca Moore, right, Engineering Manager of Google Earth Engine and Earth Outreach, and Brazilian Surui tribe Chief Almir smile during a press conference in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, June 16. Moore announced the creation of a Google culture map for the Surui tribe in Amazonia.(AP)

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