In a disheartening incident, about 20 people from an uncontacted tribe were allegedly killed by illegal gold miners in a remote area of the Brazilian Amazon. The massacre reportedly took place at the Vale do Javari, one of the largest indigenous territories in Brazil that forms a border with Peru.
The incident came to light when the alleged killers boasted about it and spoke about how it was a "kill or be killed" situation. Leila Silvia Burger Sotto-Maior, the coordinator of Funai, a Brazilian agency on indigenous affairs, explained that the miners seemed pretty pleased about it.
"It was crude bar talk," the New York Times quoted Sotto-Maior as saying. Not just that the miners even said that they had chopped the bodies of the members of the tribe. "They even bragged about cutting up the bodies and throwing them in the river," she added.
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The gruesome killers reportedly happened last month and federal prosecutors in Brazil have now launched an investigation into it. "There is a lot of evidence, but it needs to be proven," she added.
While the prosecutor in charge Pablo Luz de Beltrand confirmed that they were looking into the matter, he said that for now, they couldn't reveal more details on it. "We are following up, but the territories are big and access is limited," the NYT quoted Beltrand as saying.
"These tribes are uncontacted — even Funai has only sporadic information about them. So it's difficult work that requires all government departments working together."
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Beltrand also revealed that this is the second such case that he is working on this year as a similar incident was reported in February this year. He also explained that such murders were earlier unheard of and seem to be a recent occurrence. "It was the first time that we'd had this kind of case in this region. It's not something that was happening before."
Meanwhile, Survival International has revealed that such uncontacted tribes are very few in number, and if the reports of the massacre are true, there are chances that a sizeable percentage of the members have been destroyed.
If 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," Sarah Shenker, a senior campaigner with the rights group, noted.
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As of January 2007, Brazil was said to have about 67 uncontacted tribes who live in voluntary isolations and do not keep any kind of contact with the global civilization. In 2013, there were said to be over 100 uncontacted tribes worldwide, most of which resided in South America, Central Africa, and New Guinea.
India too is said to have a few uncontacted tribes in the country, who reside in the remote areas of the Andaman Islands and Arunachal Pradesh.