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Brazil Investigates Possible Killing of Uncontacted Tribe Members

FILE - Members of an uncontacted Amazon Basin tribe and their dwellings are seen during a flight over the Brazilian state of Acre along the border with Peru in this May, 2008 photo distributed by FUNAI.
Brazil Investigates Possible Killing of Uncontacted Tribe Members
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The Brazilian government has opened an investigation into the deaths of 10 members of an uncontacted indigenous tribe.

Gold miners reportedly killed the tribe members in the Brazilian state of Amazonas.

Officials in Amazonas opened the investigation after learning that the miners had talked about killing members of an uncontacted tribe.

Brazil's National Indian Foundation said some of the miners were detained for questioning, but no deaths yet have been confirmed.

The reports come on the week of the 10-year anniversary of the United Nations' Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The document brings attention to the situation of indigenous people and creates standards for their survival and well-being. But advocates in Brazil say recognition of indigenous rights is making slow progress in the country.

About 900,000 indigenous people live in Brazil. They are spread out among 300 tribes and speak many different languages.

Indigenous tribes lack many basic rights, activists say

Native people struggle in the South American nation. Leaders and advocates say many do not have property rights. They may face violence from miners, ranchers and loggers. And there is little money for protecting indigenous people’s interests.

However, more than 10 percent of Brazil’s land is recognized territory for the indigenous population. Most of that land is in the rainforest of the Amazon River.

The UN declaration offers support for land demarcation, which provides some form of land rights to indigenous people.

Alberto Terena is a Brazilian indigenous leader.

He told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, "We see our rights being violated all the time…We depend on the land to live.” He added, “With no demarcation, there is no health, no education. There is just a piece of land with heaps of people."

Joana Chiavari is an expert at the Climate Policy Initiative in Brazil. She said the process of land demarcation, to protect indigenous land, has resulted in violence.

Erika Yamada is a U.N. expert on indigenous rights. She said the number of killings of indigenous people in 25 nations increased by 100 percent to 281 in 2016 compared to the year before. She added that the number of killings in 2017 is, in her words, “likely to be even more alarming.”

Some say invasions of indigenous territory have been increasing as Brazil cuts spending. Officials say the budget cuts are measures aimed at bringing Brazil out of its worst recession in decades.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Jonathan Evans adapted this story from VOANews and Reuters reports. Mario Ritter was the editor.


Words in this Story

standards –n. ideas about what is correct or acceptable

advocate – n. a person who argues for or supports a cause or policy

demarcation – n. that which shows the limits or edges of something

indigenous – adj. produced, living, or existing naturally in a particular region or environment