Last survivors of Piripkura tribe found in Brazil; how modernisation has impacted them in Amazon?
Tamandua Piripkura has spent his entire life eluding capture. Not from the government or his enemies-although many people want him dead-but from modernity.
Written By: Saket Tiwari
21 Aug 2023 12:04:PM
New Delhi: For kilometres, all that could be seen was jungle, until suddenly the government officers discovered it: a temporary shelter with the fire still smouldering. There were two sets of footprints, two places for hammocks, and two machetes.
The most recent New York Times article claims that one of the government agents, Jair Candour, hid beneath the shelter in June as his companion took pictures. After 35 years of looking, Candour finally missed the guy he had spent his whole life trying to find.
Tamandua Piripkura has spent his entire life eluding capture. Not from the government or his enemies-although many people want him dead-but from modernity, the report said. He and Pakyi Piripkura were the last two male members of the Piripkura tribe, which lived in the Amazon region of South America.
The Piripkura people, an offshoot of a larger Indigenous community that previously covered a sizable portion of the forest, are said to have only three remaining living members, Tamandua being one of them. He has spent all of his reportedly 50 years living alone in the Amazon rainforest. His uncle was his landlord. Rita was a female member of the group up until about 1985. But she departed and wed a member of a different tribe.
The guys are at the focus of a wider issue that Brazil has been debating for years. This issue has significant implications for the future of the Amazon and the local people who have long lived there.
Who is entitled to use the forest? Are the landowners-ranchers and loggers-two Indigenous men whose ancestors lived here before Brazil's government existed?
Who are these two men?
Only two Piripkura tribe members are known to reside in the region, while more are said to be there as well after hiding out in the deepest parts of the forest. Massacres in the past have claimed many Piripkura lives.
According to NYT, Brazil essentially sided with the loggers after Jair Candour discovered Pakyi and Tamandua for the first time in 1989 while they were hunting for honey in a tree. The government did little for the subsequent 20 years while sawmills destroyed the forest.
Then, in 2007, Candour tracked down the two guys once more. The government changed its position during a socialist administration as a result of evolving attitudes towards protecting the Amazon. For Pakyi and Tamandua alone, Brazil conserved approximately 1,000 square miles of forest-an area twice the size of Los Angeles.
Their habitat is in danger
Indigenous people have been killed all across the world for millennia because they were considered a barrier to progress. But in recent years, increasing pressure has compelled governments to save Indigenous territories. Such reserves are now a cornerstone of Brazilian attempts to protect the Amazon. Approximately the size of France and Spain put together, 14 per cent of the country is currently Indigenous territory.
However, the invasion of those lands has continued, and since 2019, about 800 Indigenous people have perished. There are only a few dozen individuals remaining in many tribes after years of slaughter and devastation.
However, according to several reports, analysts claim that no tribe in Brazil is smaller than the Piripkura, and as a result, their safeguards are now in jeopardy.
In what is meant to be the protected area of the Piripkura people, one of the world's most endangered uncontacted Indigenous peoples, in the Brazilian Amazon, overflight photographs from advocacy organisations two years ago in October 2021, revealed that the habitat in extreme dangers.
According to Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), a non-profit that promotes the rights of Indigenous and traditional peoples, the Piripkura territory, which is 2,43,000 hectares (6,00,500 acres) in size and is located in the northwest of Mato Grosso state. It has recently undergone the most deforestation of all the reserves inhabited by remote or recently contacted Indigenous people in Brazil. More than 2,150 hectares (5,310 acres) of forest were cut inside the region between August 2020 and July 2021, which is a roughly 100-fold increase over the same time last year, reported Mongabay.
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