By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SAO PAULO, Brazil – A federal prosecutor in Brazil has opened an investigation into the massacre of an “uncontacted” indigenous tribe in Brazil. Reports of this attack originate from illegal gold miners who bragged about their attack in a bar.

An uncontacted Brazilian indigenous tribe near the border of Peru. Image Courtesy of NBC News.

These gold miners, also known as garimpeiros, were illegally mining in a protected part of the Amazon when they encountered an indigenous tribe of at least ten members. The miners bragged that they had “gotten the better of them and killed the entire lot.” They boasted of cutting the tribe members’ bodies so that they wouldn’t float and dropping them into the Jandiatuba River.

The miners are recorded speaking in a nearby town and have been arrested and taken in for questioning. They were overheard saying that they shot at women and children hunting for turtle eggs on the riverbank. They also claimed, “it was kill or be killed.” If confirmed, this murder would be the largest massacre of indigenous people in Brazil since 1993.

One official reports that there is no material proof of the alleged massacre. Given the time that passed and size of the Amazon, it is extremely difficult to find the bodies. However, the miners had collected tools and jewelry from the dead which corroborate their story.

This attack is believed to have taken place along the Jandiatuba River, near Peru’s border, where around twenty uncontacted tribes live. This is part of the Javari Indigenous Territory, an 85,445-square-kilometer area which is home to the largest concentration of isolated indigenous people in the world. The territory was given legal protection for indigenous tribes in 2001. However, in recent years the area has seen an increase in the presence of illegal miners and loggers.

The director of Survival International blames the Brazilian government. “If these reports are confirmed, President Temer and his government bear a heavy responsibility for this genocidal attack.” Under President Temer, the government has slashed funds for Brazil’s agency on indigenous affairs, Funai. This 44% cut in funds resulted in Funai closing five of 19 bases designated to protecting uncontacted communities.  Dozens of tribes have been left defenseless against thousands of invaders who want to raid their lands, including gold miners, ranchers, and loggers.

As is expected, little is known about the tribe involved in this massacre. They are known as Fleicheros, or “the ones who throw arrows,” and everything else is a mystery. Because of their isolation from society, these people are highly susceptible to invaders’ diseases and could be killed by something as little as the common cold. Any contact with these tribes, even non-violent, can result in devastation.

Details about this genocide will likely remain blurred. These victims have their own language and culture so are unlikely to ever speak to Brazilian authorities. Knowing this, their invaders feel they can get away with most everything.

For further information, please see:

Aljazeera – Brazil: Indigenous groups condemn alleged massacre – 15 September 2017

Independant – Brazilian police investigate gold miners for ‘killing uncontacted Amazon tribe members’- 13 September 2017

CBS – Prospectors reportedly detained in killing of Amazon tribe members in Brazil – 13 September 2017

NBC News – Brazil Launches Investigation into Alleged Massacre of ‘Uncontacted’ Indigenous Tribe – 12 September 2017

Washington Post – Authorities: Gold miners at a bar bragged about slaughtering members of a reclusive Brazilian tribe – 11 September 2017 

Mongabay – Uncontacted Amazon indigenous groups reportedly attacked by outsiders – 11 September 2017


Author: Emily Green