While the attention of the entire world is focused on the thrilling football games in Brazil, another event has taken place deep in the country’s wilderness but remained largely unnoticed.
A group of uncontacted Amazon Indians has emerged from the rainforest near the country’s border with Peru and made contact with a settled indigenous community, according to Survival International, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the rights of tribal peoples.
The news came just days after Brazil’s Indian Affairs Department and Survival International warned of the consequences of such a development amid the failure of Peruvian authorities to stop rampant illegal logging on its side of the border.
On June 29, members of the isolated tribe made contact with the settled Asháninka Indians, who live along the Envira River in western Brazil.
A government team, including a medical unit, is in the area to provide help to the newly-contacted group. Officials are worried because the Indians, living in isolation in the rainforest, have no immunity to common diseases such as flu and measles which have wiped out entire tribes in the past.
Their emergence also highlight the enormous threat to these tribes by nefarious activities such as illegal logging and drug trafficking.
“Where will the uncontacted Indians go? Without their lands protected, they will die,” says Amazon Indian leader Raoni Metuktire, who has been campaigning for the protection of the rights of the tribal people.
It’s not clear how many uncontacted tribespeople live in the jungles between Brazil and Peru, but Brazilian experts believe those living on their side of the border could number more than 600.
According to Survival, they are probably descended from people who fled to the remote headwaters of the region’s rivers to avoid being enslaved or wiped out by rubber growers at the end of the 19th Century.
For food, they hunt birds and other animals, and collect fruits and nuts. Some also cultivate bananas and cassava in small plots. They live in communal houses made from thatch and wooden saplings.
Says Survival director Stephen Corry: “Both Peru and Brazil gave assurances to stop the illegal logging and drug trafficking which are pushing uncontacted Indians into new areas. They’ve failed. The traffickers even took over a government installation meant to monitor their behavior. The uncontacted Indians now face the same genocidal risk from disease and violence which has characterized the invasion and occupation of the Americas over the last five centuries. No one has the right to destroy these Indians.”
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