Yanomami tribe raises alarm as uncontacted Indians “disappear”

"Aerial photos of an uncontacted Yanomami village were released in 2011. Recent overflights have found the communal house empty."
"Aerial photos of an uncontacted Yanomami village were released in 2011. Recent overflights have found the communal house empty."
© Hutukara/Survival 2011

Yanomami Indians in the Brazilian Amazon have warned that their uncontacted relatives are in grave danger as illegal miners have taken over their territory.

Recent overflights to monitor one uncontacted group have returned with news that their communal house is empty, indicating that they could have fled or been attacked.

Hutukara Yanomami Association announced in a statement, “The Yanomami indigenous territory is overrun with illegal gold miners. There are more of them each day, and they are ruining the forest, polluting the rivers… and causing irreparable damage to our health and culture.”

Shaman Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, President of Hutukara, said, “The place where the uncontacted Indians live, fish, hunt and plant must be protected. The whole world must know that they are there in their forest and that the authorities must respect their right to live there.”

Earlier this year, the government’s Indian Affairs Department, FUNAI, abandoned its base camp and airstrip from which it aimed to protect the uncontacted Yanomami, known as the Moxi Hatëtëa. The government’s absence has left the Indians even more vulnerable to attacks and diseases which could prove fatal.

"Illegal airstrip on Yanomami land, the largest forested indigenous territory in the world."
"Illegal airstrip on Yanomami land, the largest forested indigenous territory in the world."
© Hutukara/ISA

The miners are occupying the camp and planes are reportedly arriving weekly, landing on the airstrip and delivering equipment to the mining gangs.

Exclusive aerial photos released to mark the 20th anniversary of the Yanomami territory provide a unique glimpse of this uncontacted Yanomami community.

The uncontacted Yanomami are one of the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. They face catastrophe unless their land is protected.

Thousands of illegal miners brought violence and disease to their forest in the 1980s, reducing the indigenous population by 20%.

The Yanomami indigenous territory was officially created in 1992 after a long international campaign by Davi Yanomami, Survival International and the Pro Yanomami Commission in Brazil. It is the largest forested indigenous territory in the world.

Survival is pushing Brazil’s government to remove all the miners from the territory and to return to monitor and protect the land from invasions.