Brazilian experts warn of uncontacted tribes “genocide” after sacking of government coordinator

Bruno Pereira (center) has been sacked. Experts say his dismissal represents yet another backwards step in the policy to protect uncontacted tribes.

Bruno Pereira (center) has been sacked. Experts say his dismissal represents yet another backwards step in the policy to protect uncontacted tribes.
© FUNAI

Top Brazilian experts have released a damning statement warning “genocide is underway” against uncontacted tribes.

The warning follows the sacking of Bruno Pereira, the head of the government department charged with the protection of uncontacted tribes’ lands.

The experts are “extremely worried” that Pereira has been sacked “for no apparent technical reason”, and that his dismissal “represents yet another backwards step in the policy to protect uncontacted tribes.” They note that “this upheaval will provoke the genocide of uncontacted and recently contacted indigenous peoples”.

The signatories include previous coordinators of the uncontacted Indians unit of the government’s indigenous affairs agency (FUNAI), indigenous people, and past and present “sertanistas” – field workers who lead expeditions to monitor uncontacted tribes’ territories and keep invaders out.

They believe Pereira’s dismissal is a prelude to the wholesale dismantling of long-standing government policy to protect uncontacted tribes’ land so they can live as they choose – an internationally-respected policy which is the only way to enable uncontacted tribes to survive and thrive.

Brazil is home to more uncontacted tribes – indigenous peoples with no peaceful contact with mainstream society – than anywhere else on Earth. They depend completely on their land for their survival.

President Bolsonaro and his ministers have unleashed an aggressive assault against Brazil’s indigenous population, and uncontacted tribes are heavily targeted. Invasions of indigenous territories, including the forests of the uncontacted Yanomami and Awá people, have skyrocketed since Bolsonaro took power on 1 January this year.

The uncontacted Awá face extinction. Neighboring Guajajara Indians released this image to prove they exist and call for the protection of their land.

The uncontacted Awá face extinction. Neighboring Guajajara Indians released this image to prove they exist and call for the protection of their land.
© Mídia Índia

In conjunction with his plans to open up the Amazon rainforest for large-scale agribusiness and mining, the President has indicated that he wants to “integrate” uncontacted indigenous peoples into mainstream society. Forcibly contacting uncontacted tribes, and stealing their land, could wipe them out.

The experts’ statement coincides with the arrival of dozens of indigenous people at the Vatican at the invitation of Pope Francis, for the start of a three-week-long Synod centered around their fight to protect their land.

Survival International and its supporters in over 100 countries are fighting alongside indigenous peoples and experts in Brazil to stop Brazil’s genocide. Since 1969, Survival has led the global campaign for the protection of uncontacted tribes’ territories.

Fiona Watson, Advocacy Director at Survival International, said today: “For decades, Brazil has led the way in the protection of uncontacted tribes’ lands, recognizing that they’re the most vulnerable peoples on the planet.

“But President Bolsonaro is clearly intent on completely dismantling this work, and wants to open up indigenous territories across Brazil to loggers, miners and ranchers. He doesn’t care how many indigenous people die in the process, and has openly expressed his racist contempt for them on many occasions. This is a pivotal moment for the future of uncontacted tribes, and therefore for all humanity. Either people around the world stand shoulder to shoulder with the indigenous peoples fighting for their very survival, or we watch as genocide is committed in front of our eyes.”