An eight-year-old girl from one of the last uncontacted tribes in the Amazon was captured by loggers in Brazil, tied to a tree, and then burned alive, the Telegraph reports. She was killed as part of a campaign to move the indigenous people off their land.
Brazilian authorities said Thursday they had not found evidence she was burned alive but that the presence of illegal loggers in the area was confirmed.
It is a shocking story, but one that Scott Wallace, author of “The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes,” says likely happens more often than we know.
“The jungle is so dense, the distance is so vast, that these kind of things can happen on a pretty regular basis. One of biggest problems is budgeting personnel and resources to enforce the law when resources are scant.”
In this instance, the child is said to have wandered away from the village where her 60-person Awá tribe resides, totally isolated from the modern world. The village is in a protected reserve in the north-eastern state of Maranhão, which has huge iron ore deposits and valuable timber.
“She was from another tribe, they live deep in the jungle, and have no contact with the outside world,” Luis Carlos Guajajaras, a local leader from a separate tribe, told a Brazilian news Web site. “It would have been the first time she had ever seen white men. We heard that they laughed as they burned her to death.”
A related Awa tribe, as filmed by environmental activist Jean-Pierre Dutilleux:
The Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), a Catholic group, also believed the death occurred, saying it had seen video of the girl’s charred body.
The government has been investigating claims like these for the years. The Akuntsu tribe in the western state of Rondonia, for example, consists of just five people because the rest of their tribe was massacred, by either loggers or ranchers who were never punished.
The Akuntsu tribe, via Survivor International:
According to CIMI, some 450 tribes people were murdered in Brazil between 2003 and 2010.
Ecuador has similar problems. In 2008, 15 Indians from the isolated Taromenani tribe are believed to have been massacred by loggers. At the time, President Rafael Correa vowed to protect Indians against loggers . But as Wallace points out, that’s often easier said than done.
“Loggers are essentially the spearhead of the advance of the frontier into the virgin forest. Almost by definition they are a rough and tumble and violent-prone breed” says Wallace. “They will do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
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