Brazil: Only contacted member of threatened tribe denounces impending genocide

August 12, 2021

Rita Piripkura, the only contacted member of the Piripkura tribe. Her brother and nephew, Baita and Tamandua, are known to still live inside the territory. © Survival

The only contacted member of the Amazon’s Piripkura tribe has voiced her fears that loggers operating illegally inside her people’s territory will soon kill her relatives.

Rita Piripkura is the only Piripkura person in regular contact with outsiders. In a unique interview released today by Survival International, she describes how nine of her relatives were massacred in one attack by loggers, and says that her brother and nephew, Baita and Tamandua, are known to still live inside the territory.

Rita says: “There are lots of land grabbers around… If they kill them, there won’t be anyone left.”

Piripkura men Baita and Tamandua, photographed during an encounter with a FUNAI unit. The two men, who are uncle and nephew, have had sporadic interactions with the local FUNAI team, but returned to live in the forest. © Bruno Jorge

The Piripkura’s forest was deforested more than any other uncontacted tribe’s territory in Brazil in 2020. It is believed other members of the tribe are also living in the territory, having retreated to the depths of the forest.

The Piripkura’s forest is currently shielded by a Land Protection Order – an official order used to protect uncontacted tribes’ territories that have not been through the long process of official demarcation – but the order is due to expire on September 18.

A judge recently ordered the authorities to remove farmers and loggers inside the territory, but like most such edicts requiring government action, little has been done to comply.

Six other tribal territories are currently protected by similar Land Protection Orders, and in total they cover 1 million hectares of rainforest. But President Bolsonaro and his allies want to open up these territories, which remain vulnerable until they are fully demarcated as Indigenous lands, as part of his government’s all-out assault on Indigenous rights.

Sarah Shenker, head of Survival’s Uncontacted Tribes campaign, said today: “Rita Piripkura’s harrowing and urgent appeal for the survival of her relatives should be heard far and wide. The Piripkura people have been decimated by decades of killings at the hands of outsiders. Now those few that are left face the same fate, as ranchers and politicians, boosted by President Bolsonaro’s genocidal actions and proposals, are trying to rip up all protection of the Piripkura’s forest.

“The Land Protection Orders – and proper enforcement of them – are the only thing standing between uncontacted tribes like the Piripkura and total extinction. They must be renewed, all invaders evicted, and the land fully protected."

Uncontacted Indians of Brazil