UAC Responds to Isolated Tribes Crisis

August 2014:

UAC and its sister organization, ProPurús, are implementing emergency contingency plans in response to the previously isolated tribe initiating contact with villagers on the Envira River near the Brazil – Peru border. Twenty-four members of the tribe have chosen to stay and live near the village, at least for now. The rest have returned to the forest.

Earlier this month, ProPurús staff led a team of isolated tribes experts from Peru’s Ministry of Culture to the Yurua River, located near the Envira, to conduct emergency training for local villagers on how to react if similar contact events happen there. Peru hopes to learn from errors made during the Envira contact, when seven tribespeople became sick. Fortunately, Brazil’s isolated tribes agency, FUNAI, responded by sending a team of doctors and anthropologists to provide medicine and provide leadership to the villagers. However, sensitive information about the contact was publicized on the internet, resulting in an onslaught of media attention. Last week, English television reporters conducted an unauthorized overflight to film an isolated tribe village near the Yurua on the Peruvian side of the border. We can only guess how these intrusions impact the tribes.

A shelter made by isolated people near the Envira River (Chris Fagan, UAC).

A shelter made by isolated people near the Envira River (Chris Fagan, 2008).

After years of limited collaboration, in March, FUNAI and Peru’s Ministry of Culture signed an agreement to work together on protecting the rights of isolated tribes along the border. Obviously, the tribes do not recognize international borders, thus effective collaboration between the two countries is imperative.

Over the past year, UAC / ProPurús has been working closely with the Ministry to assess threats and the presence of isolated tribes in and around the Yurua River and the Murunahua Territorial Reserve. While illegal mahogany logging has been reduced significantly, drug smugglers are still active in the area. In fact, two years ago smugglers took over a FUNAI post on the Envira, very close to the recent contact event, and unfortunately were not removed by the Brazil government. The Envira tribe explained to interpreters that they decided to leave the forest due to fighting with “white people” who experts believe are smugglers. UAC has been documenting illegal logging and drug smuggling near the Envira for the past decade, including this 2010 report.

Last week, ProPurús participated in an emergency meeting in Acre, Brazil hosted by conservation and indigenous rights organization Comissao Pro Indio Do Acre (CPI – Acre). Participants included indigenous leaders and isolated tribes experts from the Acre government. The purpose was to convene experts to share information and design a bi-national protection plan for protecting the Ucayali – Acre borderlands and the people who live there, both settled villagers and isolated tribes alike.

See recent news on the Envira contact

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