Brazilian authorities are investigating an alleged massacre of indigenous residents of the Javari Valley. Very little has been confirmed at this point. It appears that several members of the tribe were collecting food when they encountered a group of miners. These prospectors had been hired to illegally dredge the valley’s rivers for gold.
The miners claim that they killed out of self-defense, and it was “kill them or be killed”*. However, this is not supported by other statements of the miners, which displayed clear genocidal intent. The workers were overheard bragging that they ‘“killed the lot” before “cutting-up” the bodies’**.
My history teacher has said on several occasions, “Killing another human being is a traumatic experience.” His point is that for the majority of people, killing someone is not something that they can look back upon positively. The only way that people are able to rejoice in such massacres is by dehumanizing the victims. The boastful attitude of these men suggests a similar mindset.
FUNAI, the National Indian Foundation of Brazil, is investigating these claims along with other sectors of the Brazilian government. Two of the gold miners have been arrested.
This attack on indigenous people is likely related to extreme budget cuts to FUNAI. Earlier this year, conservative government parties cut their budget more than 40%, leaving the agency responsible for protecting nearly a million indigenous lives with little more than £14 million (USD 18.6 million). For reference, 1.18% of the U.S.’s federal budget in 2015 amounted to over USD 13 billion (about £10 billion). The amount of money devoted to uncontacted Amazonian tribes (such as the one discussed in this article) is even smaller–only £600,000 (USD 800,000).
Unfortunately, this is just one of many examples of how governments have failed to protect their indigenous peoples. We like to think of ethnic cleansing as something in the past, but as long as atrocities such as this continue, as do genocides.
* Direct quote from prospectors as seen in the New York Times
**Direct quote from unnamed source as seen in The West Australian
Photo Credit: FUNAI. (n.d.). [Aerial photo of variously aged members of a tribe holding bows and arrows and looking up at the camera]. Retrieved September 12, 2017, from https://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/uncontacted-brazil