Yanomami in Brazil “could soon be exterminated”

Yanomami shaman Davi Kopenawa warns that uncontacted Yanomami in Brazil “could soon be exterminated”. Miners and loggers now using the coronavirus pandemic as a chance to invade uncontacted tribes’ land in Brazil; the situation is dire.

In March this year Yanomami leader and shaman, Davi Kopenawa, made an urgent statement warning that a group of uncontacted Yanomami “could soon be exterminated” if the Brazilian authorities do not act now to remove gold miners working illegally on the tribe’s land. The group, known as the Moxihatatea, are in grave danger having already fled many times.

Davi said “I am very concerned. Perhaps they will soon be exterminated… The miners will undoubtedly destroy them all by killing them with their shotguns and their illnesses, their malaria, their pneumonia… We are very worried about what might happen to them… It is the Moxihatetea and all the other uncontacted peoples of the Amazon who still look after the last forest. My people must be able to live in peace and in good health … We are in our home in the forest! The outsiders cannot destroy our home; otherwise it will not end well for the world. We take care of the forest for everyone, not just for the Yanomami and uncontacted peoples. We work with our shamans, who know these things well and have wisdom that comes from contact with the Earth.”

Hutukara, the Yanomami association, estimates there are some 20,000 goldminers working illegally in the territory today. The miners continue to spread fatal diseases and destroy the forest, streams and river beds. They use mercury to separate gold which leaches into the aquatic system poisoning the fish and rivers on which the Yanomami rely.

Davi’s statement was delivered before the coronavirus pandemic hit the headlines. The virus hugely adds to the danger posed by thousands of outsiders inside the Yanomami territory as several of the world’s most vulnerable uncontacted tribes are being targeted by miners and loggers using the Covid-19 pandemic as cover.

  • In Brazil’s Javari Valley, home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else on Earth, gold miners using a large dredge have invaded the Rio Jutaí region, territory of uncontacted Korubo Indians.
  • The Ituna Itata territory, where uncontacted Indians are known to live, is currently being invaded by colonists. It was already the most deforested indigenous territory of 2019.
  • The Uru Eu Wau Wau reserve is being targeted by loggers and farmers. Three uncontacted groups are known to live there. A forest guardian, Ari Uru Eu Wau Wau, was murdered last month.
  • Gangs of illegal loggers are destroying the forest in the Arariboia indigenous territory in the northeastern Amazon. This forest is home to uncontacted Awá Indians – Earth’s most threatened tribe. The Amazon Guardians are monitoring the invasions in the absence of government action.

Survival International report that President Bolsonaro is pushing hard for Congress to approve his Presidential Decree MP910, known as “the land grabbing decree” which would see large areas of indigenous lands sold off for commercial exploitation. And alongside many indigenous peoples and organizations, Survival has lobbied leading politicians in Brazil to block the decree, participating in Tweetathons targeting members of Congress.

UNIVAJA, the indigenous organization of the Javari Valley, said: “We are living through a time of great anguish because of the coronavirus pandemic. At this sensitive time for our families and all Brazilian society, criminal opportunists persist in invading our territory with the likelihood of encountering uncontacted Indians in the Javari Valley territory.”

Survival’s Research and Advocacy Director Fiona Watson said: “What’s happening to indigenous peoples in Brazil now constitutes nothing less than an all-out, genocidal assault. Countless tribal lands are being invaded, with the backing of a government which wants to completely destroy the country’s first peoples and makes no attempt to hide it. The next few months are likely to see another devastating wave of fires as the Amazon dry season starts, and the next stages of Bolsonaro’s ‘legislative genocide.’


To find out more and how you can help visit https://www.survivalinternational.org/getinvolved. You can also raise awareness by sharing this story on e.g. your blog and social media.



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