Brazil Experts: A 'Genocide Is Underway' Against Uncontacted Tribes
By Jessica Corbett
In an open letter to Brazilian society and right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, a group of experts warned that a "genocide is underway" against uncontacted tribes because of Bolsonaro's efforts to strip away Indigenous peoples' rights and lands and open up more of the Amazon rainforest to agribusiness and mining.
The letter, released in Portuguese on Friday, came after Bruno Pereira was dismissed last week as the coordinator for uncontacted tribes at FUNAI, the Brazilian government agency for policies relating to Indigenous peoples. Signatories include previous coordinators at FUNAI, Indigenous people and field workers.
The human rights group Survival International translated some of the letter into English and circulated it online Monday:
The experts are "extremely worried" that Pereira has been sacked "for no apparent technical reason," and that his dismissal "represents yet another backwards step in the policy to protect uncontacted tribes." They note that "this upheaval will provoke the genocide of uncontacted and recently contacted Indigenous peoples."
Survival International's advocacy director, Fiona Watson, pointed out that "for decades, Brazil has led the way in the protection of uncontacted tribes' lands, recognizing that they're the most vulnerable peoples on the planet."
"But President Bolsonaro is clearly intent on completely dismantling this work, and wants to open up indigenous territories across Brazil to loggers, miners and ranchers," she said. "He doesn't care how many Indigenous people die in the process, and has openly expressed his racist contempt for them on many occasions."
"This is a pivotal moment for the future of uncontacted tribes, and therefore for all humanity," Watson concluded. "Either people around the world stand shoulder to shoulder with the Indigenous peoples fighting for their very survival, or we watch as genocide is committed in front of our eyes."
Breaking: Brazilian experts release a damning statement warning “genocide is underway” against uncontacted tribes.— Survival International (@Survival) October 7, 2019
It follows the sacking of Bruno Pereira, the head of gov dept charged with protecting uncontacted tribes’ lands.#StopBrazilsGenocide
Last week saw not only Pereira's dismissal but also, as The Guardian noted, an announcement from Bolsonaro's mining minister, Bento Albuquerque, that "draft legislation to allow mining and agriculture on Indigenous lands should be ready later this month."
According to the newspaper, which reported on the experts' letter Monday:
Pereira said he could not comment on the reason for his dismissal as he didn't have any information about it. He said FUNAI should be the ones to explain why he was fired.
"Isolated Indigenous people are extremely vulnerable. They don't have political support; they don't speak with journalists or other Indigenous groups," Pereira said.
FUNAI described Pereira's dismissal as part of a management restructuring to "optimize work in progress." His replacement, Paula Wolthers de Lorena Pires, is an anthropologist and Indigenous specialist.
José Carlos Meirelles, a signatory of the letter who pioneered FUNAI's "no contact" policy, told The Guardian that "it's almost as if this government has a rule: to remove dedicated and competent people and put incompetents in their place."
Reporting on the letter came as Pope Francis delivered a speech Monday as part of a three-week synod that began at the Vatican Sunday to address religious and environmental issues in the Amazon region. The Associated Press reported that Indigenous people from several regional tribes as well as more than 180 South American cardinals, bishops and priests have traveled to the Vatican for the meeting.
One of the experts invited to the synod, United Nations Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, told the AP that deforestation is leading to violence against Indigenous people. As she put it, "If we refuse to surrender our territories for cattle ranchers and soybean farms—two of the main drivers of deforestation in the Amazon—we are often labeled criminals, illegals, or terrorists."
Based on data from FUNAI, Brazil has more uncontacted tribes than any other country. A recent report from Brazil's Missionary Indigenous Council found at least 160 cases of "possessive invasions, illegal exploitation of natural resources [and] damage to heritage" on Indigenous lands since Bolsonaro took office for his first term in January. That figure compared with 111 recorded cases for all of 2018 under Bolsonaro's predecessor.
When those findings were released on Sept. 24, the AP reported that Catholic priest Roque Paloschi, who heads the council, said in a press conference that Bolsonaro's "aggressive rhetoric fuels violence against Indigenous land and peoples."
The council's report was released the same day that Bolsonaro gave his first speech to the U.N. General Assembly — during which he reiterated some of his common messages about Indigenous people in Brazil and claimed that his government "is solemnly committed to environmental preservation and sustainable development," despite mounting global concern and criticism over the summer surge in deforestation and fires in the Amazon rainforest.
"As expected, Bolsonaro's speech at the United Nations has doubled down on division, on nationalism, and on ecocide," the Brazilian Climate Observatory said at the time. "Bolsonaro's policies bring an immediate risk to all humankind."
Great read from our friends @EcoWatch about whether the Amazon Fires should/could be considered a crime against humanity.— Amazon Aid (@AmazonAidF) September 25, 2019
"The Amazon fires may seem beyond human control, but they're not beyond human culpability.https://t.co/Zlxi75ciSc
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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