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Indigenous father and son of the Amazon. Credit: gustavofrazao / Adobe Stock

400+ Indigenous Tribes Under Threat as Amazon Burns

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The fires blazing across the Amazon rainforest in Brazil are devastating. They’re making international headlines and sparking sadness and outrage across the globe as people worry about how the planet’s “lungs” are taking a backseat to economic interests. The political and environmental sides of the story have been well-reported, and now the impact the fires are having on the 400+ indigenous tribes is coming to light. The indigenous people are making their voices heard.

Setting Off a Global Alarm

To better understand the threat against indigenous lives, we let’s take a look at the stats on the fires as they’ve been presented so far. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has reported 74,155 fires across Brazil since January this year. That number is 85% higher than last year and includes more than 9,000 fires in the last week. Smithsonian reports that these are highest figures since records began on the issue in 2013.

The fires are allegedly being set by farmers and loggers looking to clear the forest for their economic endeavors.

All over the world people are watching the events with shock and anger . Understandably, the biggest concerns are being raised by the people who feel the direct impact of the fires – the indigenous people living in the Brazilian rainforest region.

The Mura Account

Reuters reports that the Mura tribe have “painted their bodies with orange-red paint and took up long bows and clubs as they headed into the jungle this week, prepared for battle” against the deforestation and destruction that’s underway in the Amazon rainforest.

This is their homeland and many of the Mura people are ready to defend it. 73-year-old tribal leader Raimundo Praia Belem Mura told Reuters, “For this forest, I will go on until my last drop of blood,” and he’s not alone in the sentiment.

According to Reuters there are more than 18,000 Mura that live in the rainforest region of the Amazonas state in Brazil and many of them have witnessed the consistent destruction of the rainforest around their villages. Handerch Wakana Mura, on the of Mura leaders in a clan of at least 60 people lamented the rainforest loss, not only for his people, but for all global citizens, “With each passing day, we see the destruction advance: deforestation, invasion, logging. We are sad because the forest is dying at every moment. We feel the climate changing and the world needs the forest,” he said .

The village, traditional foods such as Brazil nuts, and the very lives of the Mura people are believed to be under threat from the fires and deliberate efforts to clear the land. They have filed complaints time and again to try to protect their land and livelihood, but there are strong concerns that this may not be enough.

How Many Lives Have Been Lost?

Including the known devastation that is taking place for the Mura tribe, there are also fears for the safety of up to one million indigenous people, including the “lost” and uncontacted tribes living in the region. There have been documented cases of fires and emergencies related to the blazes in Roraima, Amazonas, Acre, Rondônia, Mato Grosso, and Para in Brazil.

News.com.au reports that “some 500 tribes live in the region and are at risk of losing their homes to infernos or encroaching cattle ranchers.” And, apart from the Mura tribe, there are also many others voicing their concerns. For example, a Pataxó woman has been filmed by an activist group lamenting that “They [people illegally clearing the land] are killing our rivers, our sources of life, and now they have set our reserve on fire.”

Humans first settled the Amazon around 13,000 years ago and some of the people living deep within the rainforest have decided to remain isolated from the rest of the world. As previously reported by Caleb Strom for Ancient Origins:

“The uncontacted peoples are hunter-gatherers and subsistence farmers living deep in the western Amazon […] a relatively stable ecosystem with enormous diversity in plant life as well as mammal, amphibian, and bird species. The uncontacted people live by fishing along the rivers, collecting turtle eggs, and hunting animals in the forest. Some groups will also practice subsistence agriculture, farming at least part of the year. Some are nomadic while others live in small settlements.”

Because they rely on the Amazon rainforest to survive, they are generally said to be its best conservationists. When they’ve chosen to care for the land of their ancestors and live on it undisturbed, that should be respected. However these uncontained fires and other violent acts against the rainforest mean their wishes are being ignored .

An uncontacted tribe in the jungle of Brazil. (CC BY SA 2.5)

An uncontacted tribe in the jungle of Brazil. ( CC BY SA 2.5 )

And we can’t forget that the Amazon rainforest is also home to many other species we are sharing the planet with – both known and unknown animals, insects, plants, and other lifeforms are losing their lives and homes. Ecologist and Amazon expert Adriane Muelbert is right in lamenting this horrible loss to National Geographic , “It’s a tragedy … a crime against the planet and a crime against humankind.”

As the flames continue to engulf the grand trees that make up the Amazon rainforest, we may never know how many lives have been lost and how many more are under threat .

Top Image: Indigenous father and son of the Amazon. Credit: gustavofrazao / Adobe Stock

By Alicia McDermott

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