Drug Traffickers Threaten 'Uncontacted' Amazon Tribe

Image: Survival International

Little is known about the Amazon's few remaining uncontacted tribes, who for centuries have practiced their traditional ways of life in the remotest regions of the world's largest rainforest -- but many fear that they may be learning the worst about us. According to Brazil's National Indian Foundation (Funai), a gang of heavily-armed, Peruvian drug traffickers are believed to have recently ransacked an isolated indian outpost, driving away or killing the numerous indigenous peoples there, now considered 'missing'. The events highlight yet another threat facing a region hard-hit by lawlessness, with humanity's last practitioners of traditional culture taking the brunt.

Funai first identified the uncontacted tribe in 2008, when a flyover survey in a remote corner of the Brazilian Amazon yielded startling images of a mysterious indigenous group aiming their traditional weapons at the passing plane. Late last month, however, officials discovered that a nearby outpost had been "invaded and looted late July by Peruvian drug traffickers" -- evidenced by a backpack left behind by the gang which contained cocaine, and an artifact which suggests they had a violent encounter with tribespeople: an arrow.

"Arrows are like the identity card of uncontacted Indians. We think the Peruvians made the Indians flee. Now we have good proof. We are more worried than ever. This situation could be one of the biggest blows we have ever seen in the protection of uncontacted Indians in recent decades. It's a catastrophe," the head of the Brazilian government's isolated Indians department, Carlos Travassos, tells Survival International, an indigenous rights organization.

Officials from Funai are currently in the region investigating the scene, but so far, the fate of the indigenous tribe is unknown. The drug traffickers are known to be armed, but that would likely not have prevented indians from defending themselves -- leading many to fear that the tribe was massacred, or driven deeper into the forest for protection. In either case, the action marks one of the most disruptive crimes against indigenous groups in recent memory. And sadly, it may not be an isolated event.

"This is extremely distressing news. There is no knowing how many tribal peoples the drugs trade has wiped out in the past, but all possible measures should be taken to stop it happening again," says Survival International's Stephen Corry, as reported by The Telegraph. "The world's attention should be on these uncontracted Indians, just as it was at the beginning of this year when they were first captured on film."

For more on this story, visit Survival International.

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Tags: Amazonia