Yanomami mother and child.
Yanomami mother and child.
© Steve Cox/Survival

The Yanomami of the community of Paapiú in the Brazilian Amazon are demanding that the authorities remove hundreds of illegal goldminers invading their land.

They say they are prepared to use bows and arrows to expel the invaders themselves if the authorities do not take immediate action.

In the 1980s, a gold rush in the state of Roraima decimated the Yanomami and their neighbours, the Yekuana. After many years of campaigning, their land was recognized and the miners expelled. However, in recent years the miners have returned in increasing numbers – it is estimated there are now about 3,000 in the Yanomami territory.

Yanomami leaders have repeatedly denounced the invasion, and they say the situation has recently worsened. The authorities have so far failed to act.

A group of illegal miners killed a Yekuana man and injured his son on 21 January. The perpetrators have since given themselves in to the police, but have not yet been tried.

Last week, another group of illegal miners approached and attempted to befriend some Yanomami men. They left when other Yanomami arrived on the scene, but said they would return.

Illegal miners are often armed and in the past have killed Yanomami. They also expose the Yanomami to deadly diseases like malaria. Gold mining pollutes the rivers and fish on which the tribe rely.