Brazil: Planned Extermination of Indigenous People in Voluntary Isolation

From Awasqa Editors: Deep in the Amazon rainforest live one of the most vulnerable populations: indigenous tribes in voluntary isolation, or uncontacted tribes that have chosen to live away from civilizatory colonial advances of “modern” society. Their exact population is unknown but it spans across several borders in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, and other States that cross through Amazon land. Below we provide a translation of public condemnation of Bolsonaro government’s deliberate support of invaders on indigenous land and the genocidal threat of oil, mining, and logging extractivist policies.

By Indigenist Missionary Council (Cimi), Awasqa Translation. Originally Published in Portuguese at CIMI

There are records in Brazil of 114 uncontacted tribes in total, of which only 28 have been confirmed by the National Indian Foundation [FUNAI-Fundação Nacional do Índio, a government agency].

Planned extermination of free indigenous peoples or those in voluntary isolation in Brazil is ongoing. It is not only due to the omission of the federal government, but because of its deliberate action to allow these peoples to be massacred. Part of this criminal and a genocidal plan is the deconstruction of the entire FUNAI protection system, as well as the sometimes veiled and sometimes explicit support of invaders of their territories.

According to the data collected between January and November of this year by the Report of Violence Against Indigenous Peoples in Brazil [Relatório Violência contra os Povos Indígenas no Brasil], of the Indigenist Missionary Council: 21 registered indigenous lands with the presence of isolated peoples have been invaded: either by loggers, miners, land hoarders, hunters, fishermen, and biopiracy. The Report does not cover the territories with the presence of these peoples where there are no provisions in terms of demarcation and protection of their lands. In total there are records in Brazil of 114 isolated indigenous peoples, of which only 28 have been confirmed by FUNAI.

The strategy of extermination and genocide becomes even more evident knowing that the government is very aware of the vulnerability of these peoples, their fragility to defend themselves, and the freedom of action of criminals in the region without the protective presence of the powers of the State.

Uncontacted peoples, as well as other indigenous peoples and traditional communities, the Amazon rainforest itself and everything that inhabits it, with its allies and defenders, are not only considered obstacles but also enemies to be fought, defeated or destroyed because they hinder or resist government plans.

That is why the government conveniently closes its eyes and favors the action of environmental and criminal murderers who are in charge of the dirty work. Once the road is cleared, there are conditions for land-grabbing by owners of agricultural products and companies that promote the looting of the region’s natural wealth, such as mining exploration which the government intends to promote in indigenous lands. This perverse logic, which allows the extermination of the socio-biodiversity of the Amazon to satisfy the greed of a few, must be stopped.

21 indigenous territories registered with the presence of uncontacted peoples have been invaded: either by loggers, seekers, land hoarders, hunters, fishermen and plant extractors.

In the Indigenous Land of the Javari Valley (State of Amazonas), there is the largest number of Uncontacted Peoples in the country, with 18 records. Since December 2018 and so far, there have been five shooting attacks against the Itui-Itacoaí River Ethno-Environmental Protection Base denounced by the Union of Indigenous Nations of the Javari Valley (Univaja) and confirmed by FUNAI employees working in these bases.

In September of this year, FUNAI’s employee, Maxciel Pereira dos Santos, was killed in Tabatinga, Amazonas, probably due to his surveillance work at the base of the Ituí-Itacoaí River. In addition, fundamentalist missionaries, including foreigners, are entering the Indigenous Territory of the Javari Valley without the permission of the indigenous peoples and without taking into account Funai’s protection measures, putting the survival of these isolated peoples at risk.

The situation is reflected throughout the country. Forest warden Paul Paulino Guajajara was shot dead on November 1 in an ambush by invaders within the Indigenous Territory of Arariboia (State of Maranhão), inhabited by the Guajajara people and isolated Awá-Guajá groups. Laércio Guajajara, who accompanied Paulo Paulino, suffered an assassination attempt upon receiving two shots: one in the arm and one in the back. The indigenous land has suffered the invasion of loggers and hunters for years. These are people who feel empowered by attacking indigenous peoples within their lands and are a great threat to isolated groups.

Aldea de indígenas aislados. Foto: CGIRC / Funai

Village of Indigenous People in Voluntary Isolation. Photo: CGIRC / Funai

In the Inãwébohona Indigenous Land located on the island of Bananal, on October 9, eight uncontacted indigenous people were seen  by a brigade of the National Center to Prevent and Combat Forest Fires (PrevFogo) during the fight against a large forest fire, confirming the information of the Indigenous Peoples of the region and Cimi with insistent requests and transfers to FUNAI so that the necessary protection measures are adopted. The authorities, despite the obvious risk of these isolated people due to a large number of invaders that exploit the natural wealth of this indigenous land and the large fires during the dry period, even caused by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPF), have remained silent.

In a letter issued on November 6, addressed to “Brazilian society and the competent authorities,” a set of FUNAI staff members on the Ethno-Environmental Protection Front [FPE-Frentes de Proteção Etnoambiental] expressed their concern about this terrifying threat to the lives of Uncontacted Tribes, and revealed their anguish and helplessness because they do not have adequate working conditions, safety, and support to exercise their function of supervising the territories.

Uncontacted Peoples, who have moved to the most inaccessible places in the Amazon to escape the violence of capitalist economic expansion fronts and to maintain their freedom, have the right to life, their territories and respect for their choice of isolationi, guaranteed by the Brazilian legislation and the International Treaties and Agreements of which Brazil is a signatory. It is not anyone’s duty to disrespect them, much less those responsible for ensuring compliance.

Here is an excerpt from the final document of the Amazon Synod: “Greed for land is at the root of the conflicts that lead to ethnocide, as is the murder and criminalization of social movements and their leaders. The demarcation and protection of the land is an obligation of the National States and of their respective governments.”

As Pope Francis said in Porto Maldonado, Peru, in January 2018, indigenous peoples “are the most vulnerable among the vulnerable (…) We must continue defending these most vulnerable brothers and sisters. Their presence reminds us that we cannot enjoy common goods at the rhythm of the greed of consumption.”

Brasilia, November 12, 2019

Indianist Missionary Council (Cimi)

FOR MORE INFORMATION: See below the communication released by the Union of Indigenous Nations of the Javari Valley (Univaja) released in September (in Portuguese):