Boy wounded in ‘attack by uncontacted Indians’

Shelters built by members of an uncontacted tribe along the Curanja River, south-east Peru.
Shelters built by members of an uncontacted tribe along the Curanja River, south-east Peru.
© C Fagan/Round River Conservation Studies

A fourteen-year-old Indian boy has been seriously wounded in an apparent attack by uncontacted Indians near his home in Monte Salvado, an indigenous settlement in the southeast Peruvian Amazon.

Nilo Vargas Tereso, of the Yine community, was returning home when he was hit by an arrow roughly two meters in length, reportedly shot by a member of the isolated Mashco-Piro tribe. He has been taken to hospital in Puerto Maldonado, a town more than a day’s boat ride away. His condition has not been disclosed.

The regional indigenous organization, FENAMAD, claims that this is the first time they have seen an attack of this kind. ‘Our theory is that the uncontacted brothers (tribesmen) from the Territorial Reserve are searching for more territory to live in,’ said Jaime Corisepa, the organization’s president.

Monte Salvado sits at the foot of the Piedras River, which is one of the entry routes to the Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve for isolated Indians. The reserve was created in 2002 and, after fierce lobbying from indigenous groups, was finally closed off to oil exploration in 2009.

Widespread illegal logging in the region has been blamed for displacing indigenous groups, who have been fleeing across the border to neighboring Brazil.

Residents of Monte Salvado remain behind closed doors in a bid to protect themselves from further attacks and to prevent any contact with the Indians who are extremely vulnerable because of their lack of immunity to outsiders’ diseases.

‘They are in our gardens, in our manioc plantations,’ leader Teodoro Sebastián told FENAMAD on Tuesday. ‘We cannot have any contact with them at all, even our tools could be contagious for them.’

There are an estimated 15 uncontacted tribes in Peru and all are facing extinction due to logging and oil activity that has taken over more than 70% of the Peruvian Amazon.

FENAMAD has called an emergency meeting and is demanding that the government’s Indigenous Affairs Department, INDEPA, takes responsibility for safeguarding the rights of both the Monte Salvado community and the uncontacted tribe.