People have gone to great lengths to save the whales, trees and oceans. Hopefully the same effort will be made to save an “uncontacted,” isolated native tribe in the Amazon jungles of Brazil. The Panoan Indians were first photographed from the air in 2008 and to this day, have never been contacted by the outside world. Their first brush with civilization, however, has not been civil. Peruvian drug traffickers invaded the area after overthrowing a Brazilian guard post set up to protect the forest. Now the tribe is missing and concern for their safety is mounting.
As told by National Geographic:
Five Brazilian Indian rights officials are holding out in a remote jungle outpost in a desperate attempt to protect uncontacted indigenous groups from heavily-armed drug traffickers who have moved into the area from Peru in the past two weeks, according to dispatches from the scene. Officials fear the traffickers may have unleashed a manhunt to track down and exterminate the highly vulnerable tribal populations in order to clear the forests for their coca-growing operations.
The drama began last month, when Asháninka Indians three hours upstream from the base warned by two-way radio that a heavily armed band of intruders had crossed the border from Peru into Brazil. Nearly two weeks later, 40 armed men appeared in the dense forests around the control post, which sits on the banks of the Xinane River, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) inside Brazil’s border in the western Amazonian state of Acre.
Outmanned and outgunned, the FUNAI personnel fled the outpost, which the gang overran on July 23. It took a week for Brazilian Federal Police and Army troops to respond to the incursion, dropping in by helicopter to regain control of the Xinane base. But the agents withdrew after a sweep of the nearby forest turned up a lone suspect. Unsatisfied with the failure of the police and military to remain in the area, the FUNAI team reoccupied the outpost this past Friday, August 5, fearing a massacre of the Indians they are duty-bound to protect.
The Xinane outpost is in the same region where Meirelles has twice taken journalists by aircraft on overflights to film and photograph a settlement of uncontacted Indians deep in the forest. Images of naked Indians in red body paint electrified much of the world when broadcast by the BBC earlier this year. In the BBC’s report, Meirelles called the Indians in the clearing below “the last free people on Earth.”
According to Survival International, which advocates for tribal peoples, more than 100 uncontacted tribes remain worldwide and about half live in the remote reaches of the Amazonian rainforest in Peru or Brazil.
Why did it take so long for the Brazilian Police and Army to get involved? Are they scared of the drug gangs like Mexican cops? If the people sent to protect the tribe knew ruthless traffickers were invading, why weren’t they better armed? The United States meddles in the affairs of countries who don’t want us there, why can’t we send some American muscle to assist an endangered people who really need it? Then again, that’s a question to be asked of many a worldwide crisis.
The missing Amazon tribe is truly the most innocent of victims because they don’t know anything about our wicked “civilization.” To have it forced upon them in this manner is cold-blooded and barbaric, word to Christopher Columbus. One can only hope the drug traffickers have some shred of decency and at worst, chase the natives away without harming them.
It remains to be seen if these gangsters have a heart of gold.