The miners boasted about killing the uncontacted Amazon tribe members at a local bar.
Approximately 10 tribe members who had no contact with the outside world are now dead after encountering a group of gold miners in Brazil. The New York Times reports that the indigenous people were collecting eggs near a river in a remote region when they spotted the miners and a brawl broke out. Federal prosecutors have since launched an investigation into the reported massacre. Activists are now concerned that this recent happening is further evidence that threats to endangered indigenous people around the world are increasing.
According to the Brazilian agency on indigenous affairs, Funai, a complaint has been lodged with the prosecutor’s office in Brazil after gold miners bragged about the killings at a local bar. Reportedly, the members showed off a hand-carved paddle and said it had come from a tribe member. Said Leila Silvia Burger Sotto-Maior, Funai’s coordinator: “It was crude bar talk. They even bragged about cutting up the bodies and throwing them in the river.” The miners are claiming they had no choice, as it was “kill them or be killed.”
Pablo Luz de Beltrand, the prosecutor in charge of the case, confirmed that an investigation has started. He added that the massacre occurred in the Javari Valley — the second largest indigenous reserve in Brazil. “We are following up, but the territories are big and access is limited,” Mr. Beltrand said. “These tribes are uncontacted — even Funai has only sporadic information about them. So it’s difficult work that requires all government departments working together.”
Brazil’s president, Michael Temer, is not without blame. This is because the government reduced funding for indigenous affairs. And in April, Funai shut down five of 19 bases that were previously used to watch and protect isolated tribes. At other bases, staffing was cut. The bases hold incredible importance, as they are used to prevent invasions by loggers and miners and to communicate with recently contacted tribes.
Sarah Shenker, senior campaigner with global indigenous rights group Survival International, spoke for most when she said: “If the investigation confirms the reports, it will be yet another genocidal massacre resulting directly from the Brazilian government’s failure to protect isolated tribes – something that is guaranteed in the Constitution…When their land is protected, they thrive. When their land is invaded, they can be wiped out.”
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