Illegal gold miners murdered two indigenous men in Brazil, rights group says

A Yanomami man with a bow and arrow. Source: Getty

A rights group is warning of a "cycle of violence" after the murder of two men from the Yanomami indigenous group in Brazil.

Illegal gold miners killed two men from the Yanomami indigenous group in the Brazilian Amazon, a rights group said Friday.

The Yanomami, who are known for their face paint and intricate piercings, were largely isolated from the outside world until the mid-20th century, and many still live deep in the rainforest.

The fatal shooting occurred in early June, but reports only reached police in the northern state of Roraima this week, when a Yanomami man accompanying his wife to the hospital in the state capital, Boa Vista, told the story to the authorities, said the Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY).

A Yanomami village.
A Yanomami village.

The incident appears to follow a pattern that has played out often on Yanomami land since the 1980s, in which miners initially offer indigenous inhabitants food and trinkets, then encroach increasingly on their reservation without giving them more, leading to conflict.

"We fear the murdered Yanomamis' families may decide to retaliate against the illegal miners, in accordance with the Yanomami justice system, potentially leading to a cycle of violence that could end in tragedy," the rights group said in a statement.

The Yanomami have a history of conflict with illegal miners dating back to the 1970s.

Together with diseases such as measles and malaria, the conflicts decimated the Yanomami population, which numbers around 27,000 today.

"The murder of two more Yanomami by illegal miners must be thoroughly investigated, and underlines the need for the Brazilian government to act urgently to immediately remove all miners illegally operating on Yanomami land," the group said.

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