Video footage of the first contact with a group of isolated Indians near the Brazil-Peru border has emerged – along with claims that other members of their community have been massacred.
The Indians, wearing loincloths and carrying bows and arrows, are seen claiming that members of their tribe were killed by non-Indians in Peru, where indigenous communities allegedly face pressure from drug traffickers, illegal logging and gas exploration.
Speaking through interpreters, the young Indians said other community members had died from illnesses thought to be flu and diphtheria. Survival International, the tribal rights campaign group, warned that past epidemics of flu, to which uncontacted Indians lack immunity, have wiped out entire groups.
After contacting the Ashaninka indigenous people along the banks of the Envira river, near the Peruvian border, the Indians had to be treated for an acute respiratory infection and quarantined for several days before returning to the forest.
The video footage was made by FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs department, on 30 June – four days after the Indians made their first, brief appearance. It appears to show the Indians’ fear of outsiders. Offered bananas, two of the Indians appear wary before grabbing the fruit and retreating to a safe distance.
Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, called for isolated Amazonian tribes to be protected. “It’s vital that Brazil and Peru immediately release funds for the full protection of uncontacted Indians’ lives and lands,” he said.
“Economic growth is coming at the price of the lives of their indigenous citizens. Now this wealth must be used to protect those few tribes that have so far survived.”