Revealed: Bolsonaro’s plan to wipe out “the world’s most vulnerable uncontacted tribes”

The Brazilian government is planning to open up the land of uncontacted tribes to deadly exploitation, by scrapping the emergency orders that currently protect their territories.

This article originally appeared on Survival International’s website.
Featured image: Tamandua and Baita, two Piripkura men who are among the last survivors of their people. Their territory is shielded by the Land Protection Orders, but at imminent risk of being overrun by loggers and landgrabbers.
© Bruno Jorge


Experts say the plan could drive several uncontacted tribes to extinction, and destroy around 1 million hectares of rainforest – an area twice the size of Delaware.

These tribes are especially vulnerable as their territories are not officially mapped out and protected. Currently the only thing standing between them and well-funded and heavily-armed loggers, ranchers and land-grabbers are the orders (known in Brazil as “Restrições de uso” injunctions).

Seven territories are currently protected by these orders, most of which have to be renewed every few years. Three of them are due to expire between September and December 2021, and are particularly vulnerable.

The Kawahiva are one of the tribes whose territories are covered by the Land Protection Orders. Still from unique footage taken by government agents during a chance encounter.
The Kawahiva are one of the tribes whose territories are covered by the Land Protection Orders. Still from unique footage taken by government agents during a chance encounter. © FUNAI

One of these protects the forest home of the last of the Piripkura tribe – after a series of massacres only three members of this tribe are known to exist, though some studies indicate others may still survive in the depths of the forest. A recent study by Brazilian NGO ISA showed that 962 hectares of forest in the Piripkura territory were razed last year, the equivalent of more than 1,000 football pitches.

President Bolsonaro and allies are targeting these tribes’ territories, which remain vulnerable until they are fully demarcated as indigenous lands. A Senator close to Bolsonaro, for example, is demanding that the Ituna Itatá territory be dramatically reduced in size, while state and federal politicians allied to powerful logging, ranching and agribusiness interests target other territories. President Bolsonaro is highly sympathetic to these deadly land-grabbing efforts, and has explicitly said he wants to open up all indigenous territories for exploitation.

COIAB (the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon), OPI (Human Rights Watch of Isolated and Initial Contact Indigenous Peoples) and Survival – today launched a new video to expose Bolsonaro’s plan. They’re calling for the Brazilian government to renew the Land Protection Orders; evict all invaders; fully protect the territories; and #StopBrazilsGenocide.

Angela Kaxuyana, one of COIAB’s Coordinators, said today: “No more massacres! We won’t allow any more invasions! It’s vital that indigenous peoples and the organizations of the Amazon, and all civil society, mobilize to prevent the territories where the isolated indigenous peoples live from being handed over to loggers, land grabbers, gold miners and other forest predators to destroy. If the Bolsonaro government ends the Land Protection Orders, it will be yet another disaster and attack against the lives of these peoples, which is part of the grand plan to dismantle the indigenous policy in our country.

“We need to prevent more lives from being lost in this (un)government, we’ll carry on defending our rights to life, and those of our relatives who live autonomously in their territories.”

Fabrício Amorim of OPI said: “Land Protection Orders are a cutting-edge tool of public policy in Brazil, which can be deployed quickly to safeguard the lives and land rights of uncontacted indigenous peoples. They’re the highest expression of the precautionary principle, provided for in national and international laws. Doing away with them will mean the extermination of indigenous peoples, or some groups of them, without there even being time to recognize their existence in order to guarantee their rights. It will silence little-known lives and impoverish humanity. Therefore, it’s vital to strengthen these instruments, start demarcating these areas and remove all invaders.”

Elias Bígio, former head of the Uncontacted Tribes unit at Brazil’s Indigenous Affairs Agency FUNAI, said today: “The Piripkura’s land has been occupied by aggressive and violent people who are destroying the environment and threatening everyone.

“The uncontacted Piripkura have shown that they don’t want contact. They don’t have the security of contact with ‘our’ society, given the traumatic relationship they’ve had with the invaders. They’re there in the forest, and they’ve devised strategies to protect themselves and survive. They’ve managed to survive and are there, hidden, restricted to a small territory, and claiming this territory for themselves.”

Sarah Shenker, Coordinator of Survival’s Uncontacted Tribes campaign, said today: “The future of several uncontacted tribes living in territories shielded by emergency Land Protection Orders will be decided this year. They have already experienced land theft and appalling violence and killings at the hands of outsiders. The orders are currently the only thing standing between them and certain death.

“The ranchers’ and politicians’ plot to rip up the orders, steal these lands, and wipe out the uncontacted tribes who live there, is one branch of many in the Bolsonaro government’s genocidal attack on Brazil’s indigenous peoples, and it must be blocked. Over the coming months, uncontacted tribes’ allies in Brazil and around the world will be campaigning non-stop for the orders to be renewed, all invaders evicted, and the forests to be fully protected. Only then can the uncontacted tribes survive and thrive.”


Notes to Editors

– Representatives from COIAB, OPAN, OPI and Survival are available for interview.
– The uncontacted tribal territories currently shielded by the Land Protection Orders are:

Territory | Expiration date | Area in Hectares

Piripkura (Mato Grosso) | 18 Sep 2021 | 243,000

Jacareúba/Katawixi (Amazonas) | 08 Dec 2021 | 647,000

Pirititi (Roraima) | 05 Dec 2021 | 43,000

Ituna Itatá (Pará) | 09 Jan 2022 | 142,000

Tanaru (Rondonia) | 26 Oct 2025 | 8,000

Igarapé Taboca do Alto Tarauacá (Acre) | Until the demarcation process is complete | 287

Kawahiva do Rio Pardo (Mato Grosso) | Until the demarcation process is complete | 412,000

7 thoughts on “Revealed: Bolsonaro’s plan to wipe out “the world’s most vulnerable uncontacted tribes””

  1. Like Trump, Bolsonaro is a vile pig. But unlike Trump, he actually does horrible things instead of just talking about them. Because of great reporting by Glenn Greenwald, Lula was released from prison and exonerated. There’s a chance that he can win back the presidency and stop the hell that Bolsonaro is propagating. Not saying that Lula is great or is the solution to any of this — rainforest logging continued under Lula despite being substantially decreased — but he would be a huge improvement over Bolsonaro, who actively attacks and destroys the rainforest and the traditional indigenous people who live there.

  2. This is sickening. And much as I grieve for the tiny minority of humans who still live as an integral part of nature (rather than drooling over ways to destroy it), I also noted the fact that not a word was said about the thousands of other uncontacted, indigenous species that are equally at risk. De facto human supremacism, even in a DGR article!

    And why isn’t that worm in the White House doing anything about it — such as, say, telling Bolsonaro that unless these territories are TRULY protected, the U.S. will cut off trade with Brazil?

    On issues that really matter (Palestinian rights and Brazilian rape of the planet being just two examples), there is no measurable difference between Biden and Trump. Where Trump was defiant, Biden whines. What else has changed that makes a difference, outside Biden’s whiny constituency?

    A few weeks ago, in a private email to four Democrats I’ve known for years, I referred to “the Trump-Biden regime.” Three of them haven’t spoken to me since. I’m guessing it’s because they don’t have an answer.

    And that’s the reason I’m certain civilization will collapse before today’s college students start having ED problems and menopause: This year’s personal profits and personal bank accounts are more important to 98% of the public than whether there will be air to breathe in 25 years.

    1. There are differences between Democrats and Republicans, just as there are between any two groups. But there are much more and much bigger differences between them and us than between themselves. On big issues like war & peace and maintaining U.S. empire they are identical, same with supporting Wall Street and being neoliberals. Republicans are more openly racist and anti-environmental, and these are real differences despite the fact that Democrats are not good on these issues either despite not being as bad as Republicans.

  3. I would like to remind anyone who thinks Lula would be an improvement that it was his party (PT) who undertook the environmental and humanitarian disaster that was the Belo Monte Dam. Brazilian socdems (such as Lula) are also totally on board with the New Deal For Nature that will end up displacing more indigenous tribes under the guise of “conservation” – and for those who only care about uncontacted tribes, I would like to remind again that the best protectors of the uncontacted tribes are the contacted tribes. Bolsonaro just gets more coverage from NATO media because, like Trump, he’s useful as a shitcoater.

    1. Rainforest logging substantially decreased under Lula, and has massively increased under Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro also advocated for removing all traditional indigenous people, which is the opposite of Lula. Bolsonaro also set a large portion of the rainforest on fire. I fully agree with you that dam(n)s are very ecologically destructive and should never be built. But you’ll never find a politician in modern society who’s good on all issues, and Lula is clearly much better than Bolsonaro. If it were up to me, all logging and dam-building on the entire planet would be prohibited (along all other industrial and agricultural activities), but I’ll take Lula over Bolsonaro any day.

  4. ‘The demonstrators turned out in more than 200 cities and towns for what is the biggest anti-Bolsonaro mobilisation since Brazil’s Covid outbreak began:

    “Today is a decisive milestone in the battle to defeat Bolsonaro’s genocidal administration,” said Silvia de Mendonça, 55, a civil rights activist from Brazil’s Unified Black Movement as she led a column of protesters through Rio’s dilapidated city centre.’

    “People are waking up. Lots of people who voted for Bolsonaro are now wobbling … and the politicians who support him still are opportunists – the moment they see the people organising they will switch sides too,”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/29/tens-of-thousands-of-brazilians-march-to-demand-bolsonaros-impeachment

    1. Careful though Carl. This thing has all the warning signs of a color revolution to replace the Bad Fascists with the Good Fascists, like in the US.

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