Brazil Investigates Slaughter Of Amazonian Tribespeople

Brazilian authorities are investigating reports of a massacre of up to 10 people from an isolated tribe in the Amazon by illegal gold miners.

The killings, alleged to have taken place in Javari Valley, are claimed to have been carried out by men working for gold prospectors who dredge illegally in the region’s rivers.

If proven, the murders would confirm that severe budget cuts to Brazil’s indigenous agency are having deadly effects. The agency was forced to close two bases in the same region earlier this year. Investigators face a 12-day boat trip just to reach the area.

Brazil’s National Indian Foundation, known as Funai, first sent a team of three to the small town of São Paulo de Olivença after receiving reports that men working for gold prospectors had boasted in a bar of killing a group of eight to 10 indigenous people.

Leila Sotto-Maior, coordinator for isolated and recently contacted Indians at Funai, said the men had brandished a paddle and a small bag used for carrying food that they claimed they had taken from their victims, saying they killed and threw them in the river. The massacre has yet to be confirmed. It is very difficult to investigate after time has passed.

Funai has had its budget almost halved this year by the business-friendly government of President Michel Temer which recently proposed reducing the protected area of Amazon forest and has announced plans to allow mining and development in protected areas.

Burnt communal houses of uncontacted Indians could be signs of another attack in the region. Funai has less than £600,000 to spend protecting 103 tribes of non-contacted indigenous people across this vast country, as well as recently contacted groups. Around 20 isolated groups are believed to live in the Javari Valley, where around 80 recently contacted indigenous people also live.

Cuts to Funai budgets and the closing of bases in areas with isolated tribes increased the risk of attack.

In June, UN rights experts denounced a surge of killings related to rural land disputes in Brazil this year.