At least 10 people from an indigenous tribe in Javari Valley, northwestern Brazil, have been reportedly killed by illegal gold miners.
The authorities confirmed an open investigation on the brutal killings after complaints had been raised. It was reported that the gold miners decided to brag about their deplorable offense in a bar near the Colombian border. They were boasting about a hand-carved paddle that was stolen from the tribe.
Leila Silvia Burger Sotto-Maior, coordinator for the Brazilian agency on indigenous affairs (funai), said “it was crude bar talk,” according to The New York Times.
“They had to kill them or be killed," the miners allegedly said.
Sotto-Maior also shared that the killers had “bragged about cutting up the bodies and throwing them in the river.”
After interviewing local people from the town, the indigenous affairs bureau decided to take the case to the police.
Prosecutor Pablo Luz de Beltrand, who is in charge of the case, said that the investigation had started, but he could not delve into the information. He did, however, say they are following up on it, but that “the territories are big and access is limited.”
Just over 3,000 indigenous people are from Javari Valley, with very little contact to those outside of it. Since the tribes are uncontacted, even the Funai have little information on them. Beltrand added that this case requires all government departments working together.
Sarah Shenker, senior campaigner from Survival International (a global indigenous rights group), said that if the reports are confirmed, “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.”
Due to conflict over land, several remote areas in Brazil that include indigenous groups, rural workers, and land activists have all been targeted by violence. This isn't the first time gold miners have tried to invade the space of uncontacted tribes. Last year, it was said that the Yanomami people could face extinction if they are not protected, revealing the increase of danger.
The New York Times shared that Brazil's president Michel Temer could catch some heat, as he was responsible for cutting funding for indigenous affairs. In April this year, Funai reduced staff and bases used to protect and watch the isolated tribes.
[H/T: The New York Times]