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Un-contacted Amazon tribe massacred by illegal gold miners

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Brazilian authorities are currently investigating reports of a massacre of approximately 10 people from an uncontacted Amazon tribe by illegal gold miners.

The killings are said to have taken place in Javari Valley and were allegedly carried out by men working for gold prospectors who dredge illegally in the area’s rivers.

The members of the isolated group were gathering eggs along the river in a remote part of the Amazon when they ran into the gold miners.

Following this, Brazilian federal prosecutors have begun an investigation and have found evidence that attacks of this kind against endangered indigenous groups are on the rise in the country.

Brazilian agency on indigenous affairs, Funai, has lodged a complaint with the prosecutor’s office in Amazonas after the gold miners in question were overheard bragging about the brutal killings in a bar. They provided evidence in the form of a hand-carved paddle they had taken from the tribe.

“It was crude bar talk” said Funai’s coordinator for uncontacted and recently contacted tribes, Leila Silvia Burger Sotto-Maior. “They even bragged about cutting up the bodies and throwing them in the river.”

The miners claimed that “they had to kill them or be killed”.

The killings were reported to have taken place some time last month. The indigenous affairs bureau has been conducting several initial interviews in the area and have taken the case to the police.

The prosecutor in charge, Pablo Luz de Beltrand confirmed that the investigation has begun but could not discuss details of the case while it was still underway.

“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.”

Mr Beltrand confirmed that this was the second episode of it’s kind he was investigating this year. The first reported incident against uncontacted indigenous people in the area had occurred in February, and is still currently open.

“It was the first time that we’d had this kind of case in this region - it’s not something that was happening before.”

Global indigenous rights group, Survival International has warned that given the small sizes of the uncontacted Amazon tribes, this latest episode could mean that a significant percentage of a remote ethnic group was wiped out.

“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,” said Sarah Shenker, a senior campaigner with the rights group.

Under Brazil’s current president Michel Temer, funding towards indigenous affairs has been cut. Over a quarter of bases that were used to monitor and protect isolated tribes have been closed and staffing numbers have been reduced at others.

The bases were put in place to prevent invasions by loggers and miners as well as a way of communicating with recently contacted tribes.

With a rise in land disputes in many remote regions in Brazil, indigenous groups are being targeted more and more by violence.

In some instances, the government and police are being blamed for the violence. The authorities are investigating one police raid in the Amazon region that ended with 10 people being killed - no officers were harmed.

Activists worry that Brazilian indigenous groups, especially the uncontacted tribes, are the most vulnerable groups during these times.

“When their land is protected, they thrive,” said Shenker. “When their land is invaded, they can be wiped out.”

Images courtesy of Iubasi and Neil Palmer.




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