BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Two members of the Yanomami ethnic group in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest were shot to death by illegal gold prospectors inside the Indigenous community’s territory, according to reports from the group.
Júnior Hekurari Yanomami, a member of the group who is president of Condisi-Y, the local health council, told The Associated Press on Saturday that Original Yanomami, 24, and Marcos Yanomami, 20, were slain June 12. The deaths were only reported recently due to the remoteness of the region in Brazil’s Roraima state and communication difficulties.
The Hutukara association, which represents Yanomami communities in Brazil, issued a statement confirming the reports of the killings.
Brazil’s national Indian foundation, known as Funai, and the Federal Police didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Relying on a conversation with a leader of the far-flung community, Hekurari said Original was shot first as a group of Yanomami followed prospectors who were trespassing on the community's land. Then Marcos was shot and the other Indigenous people retreated after an hour-long pursuit, Hekurari said.
Their bodies were left in the forest, in accordance with the traditions of the Yanomami, he said.
“The community is in mourning,” Hekurari said. “It is unacceptable to be killed in your home by people who are looking for gold. We need support, security.”
The Socio-Environmental Institute, an environmental and indigenous advocacy group, says more than 26,000 indigenous people live in Yanomami territory and they have faced invasions by prospectors and contamination of their waterways since the 1980s.
The institute and other groups have expressed concern about incursions into Indigenous lands by prospectors amid the coronavirus pandemic, worrying the intruders could infect their isolate communities far from medical facilities.
The Hutukara association also expressed concern that the incident could lead to further violence, as has occurred in the past.
“We fear that the family of the Yanomami murdered will decide to retaliate against the prospectors following the justice system of the Yanomami culture,” the association's statement said. “That can lead to a cycle of violence that will result in tragedy.”