Plants and Animals

Previously Unknown Uncontacted Amazon Tribe Is Facing Deep Danger

Previously Unknown Uncontacted Amazon Tribe Is Facing Deep Danger

According to Survival International, an organization that “champions tribal peoples around the world,” officials in Brazil have confirmed the existence of a hitherto unknown uncontacted tribe for the first time. Although little is known about the tribe, it is obvious that it is facing a variety of dangers, including organized violence and COVID-19.

The uncontacted tribe’s presence was recently verified by an official expedition by FUNAI, Brazil’s federal agency for indigenous affairs, in an area along the Purus River in the western Amazon region of Brazil. The expedition did not make contact with the tribe, but confirmed their presence after discovering numerous hunting shelters, baskets, pots, and bows in the area. Members of the expedition also heard members of the tribe talking nearby. “They know very little about them, but in order to protect them and their land immediately, they don’t need to know who they are or what language they speak.

Previously Unknown Uncontacted Amazon Tribe Is Facing Deep Danger

The Land Protection Order can and should be announced to allow FUNAI’s field team more time and space to conduct further fieldwork in order to identify the size of their territory and a population estimate, according to Fiona Watson, Advocacy and Research Director at Survival International. Unfortunately, the area is not protected, and non-Indigenous settlers are progressively invading it. One of the major dangers this poses is disease. Malaria and COVID-19 rates are highly high in the area, while vaccine rates are allegedly very low – a situation that might portend disaster for a community that lacks antibodies against globalized world illnesses.

“They’re in grave danger, especially if they come into contact with the settlers who live in the reserve and use it to pick nuts and other forest produce. The chance of them spreading malaria, COVID-19, or flu is significant, and any disease could be fatal to those who have not been contacted because they have little or no immunity to diseases spread by outsiders such as flu, malaria, measles, and so on,” Watson added. There’s also the possibility of violence. Other uncontacted populations in the neighboring Amazon state have been slain by loggers, miners, or drug traffickers in recent years, according to reports.

The threat of violence has risen substantially under President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration, whose unique brand of far-right populism has wreaked havoc on the Amazon rainforest and its inhabitants. Bolsonaro has dubbed indigenous reserves “an obstacle to agri-business” and urged for the forcible “integration” of uncontacted tribes, in addition to a long history of racist jokes about indigenous people.

Survival International is urging FUNAI to take immediate action to protect this newly recognized tribe. To begin with, they propose that the federal government should fund more expeditions to the tribes’ territories in order to obtain a better grasp of their people and territory. Second, they must construct a security post in the area and erect a health cordon along the territory’s border. 

Survival International says the tribe will be exterminated if they do not act quickly. “It should issue an emergency Land Protection Order on the territory of the uncontacted tribe and ensure that the local FUNAI field team has the capacity to monitor the territory to prevent invasions and possible contact,” Watson added.