Gold miners ‘massacred’ uncontacted Amazon tribe

Miners allegedly boasted of ‘cutting up’ at least ten indigenous people

Uncontacted tribe in Peruvian Amazon
Members of the uncontacted Mashco-Piro Indians photographed from a tourist boat in the Amazon in August 2011
(Image credit: © G. Galli/ Survival/

Brazilian authorities have launched an investigation into a group of gold miners who allegedly boasted of killing members of an “uncontacted” Amazon tribe.

The miners are said to have told patrons in a bar near the Colombian border that it was “kill or be killed” when they came across a party of uncontacted tribespeople collecting eggs along a river bank in a remote part of Amazonas state last month.

Ten or more members of the indigenous group, including women and children, were reportedly killed in the “genocidal” attack, according to indigenous rights group Survival.

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Leila Silvia Burger Sotto-Maior, a co-ordinator for Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, Funai, said the miners “even bragged about cutting up the bodies and throwing them in the river”, the New York Times reports.

Witnesses interviewed by Funai said the men displayed a wooden paddle they claimed to have taken from the tribespeople, she said, describing the boast as “crude bar talk”.

The incident is said to have occurred in the Javari valley, a vast expanse of rainforest roughly the size of Azerbaijan.

One of Brazil’s designated indigenous territories, its 32,900 square miles are home to around 3,000 different peoples, of which 16 are thought to have had no formal contact with the outside world.

Funai is tasked with protecting remote tribes and their land from unwanted contact with outsiders, which brings with it the risk of deadly disease and economic exploitation by unauthorised loggers, miners and ranchers.

However, three of the five bases Funai operates in the Javari valley to ensure that remote tribes are allowed to live in “voluntary isolation” have been closed in recent years as a result of central government cuts, the New York Times reports.

Funai’s report into the alleged incident has been passed on to the Brazilian federal prosecutor’s office, which has now opened its own inquiry.

Lead prosecutor Pablo Luz de Betrand said that the office would do its best to investigate the reports, but warned: “the territories are big and access is limited”.

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