In September of 2020 fifty six year old Brazilian Rieli Franciscato was killed in Rondônia state by the very people he had pledged most of his life to protect.
According to dailymail.co.uk, the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe in the mountains of Brazil have been visited by Franciscato and others from FUNAI, Brazil’s entity that defends the rights of indigenous people, since the 1980s when he founded the Kaninde Ethno-Environmental Defence Association.
The tribe is usually peaceful but on this particular day Franciscato, who was accompanied by police officers was fired upon with an arrow sinking into his chest just above his heart. He cried out, pulled the arrow out and ran about fifty yards then dropped to the ground according to witnesses.
The attackers were a small party of five men which usually constitutes a war party. The men could have been acting without the authority of the tribe perhaps seeking revenge for all of the hardships suffered by the tribes of Brazil because of President Jair Bolsonaro’s efforts to develop the Amazon forests and destroy the indigenous people’s way of life.
BBC.com tells us that loggers, farmers and miners have already illegally begun to destroy the forests and Bolsonaro is ignoring them while defunding organizations like FUNAI.
While addressing the United Nations in 2019 he denied that the Amazon was important to the world’s climate and stated that it belongs to Brazil, not the whole world.
His narrow minded views have possibly encouraged the recent spike of wildfires that clear the land and open it up to farming.
Even though there are four hundred and fifty demarcated indigenous territories across Brazil with about eight hundred thousand natives that are protected by the constitution, Bolsonaro believes they are taking up too much of the forests and it should be razed to allow development on land that is needed by the planet to buffer the effects of climate change.
His rant closely followed a speech given by activist Greta Thunberg which he called “fake news” as so many leaders do to shirk responsibility.
The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe has experienced encroachers on a regular basis. They are not a newly found tribe as they enjoy some Western cultural benefits such as clothing, computers, GPS, hidden cameras and drones to watch for intruders.
But nevertheless, illegal farming and logging brings diseases the tribes are unable to combat and even worse Covid-19 is beginning to take hold, which Bolsonaro denies is a problem although there is very clear evidence that it is. There are also several instances where tribe members have been murdered for trying to defend their land.
There are still hundreds of remote tribes in the Amazon and some have never been contacted. They need protection from people like Bolsonaro who want to “tame the natives” and push them into mainstream society requiring them to give up their culture the same as what happened to American natives in the 1800s who were forced onto tiny reservations on dry, uninhabitable lands without means to support themselves.
According to survivalinternational.org, FUNAI is responsible for protecting lands inhabited by indigenous peoples and to make sure their constitutional rights are protected.
Originally, the body assigned to protect Indians was the Indian Protection Service of 1910 which tried to eliminate the problems of the natives by pushing them into the mainstream and destroying their culture to allow the land to become available as Bolsonaro wants to do now.
While this was certainly not the answer it did help with the many missionaries who believed the heathens should be converted.
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Unfortunately, the agency became plagued with corruption and a document brought forth by the Ministry of the Interior contained seven thousand pages of the horrors committed by officials such as murder, slavery, torture, land theft and sexual abuse against the natives and even the outright extermination of more than eighty tribes. When the news spread the entire world expressed outrage and FUNAI replaced the Indian Protection Service in 1967.