Yanomami indigenous population is attacked by wildcat miners during the pandemic

Wildcat miners increased the Yanomamis' COVID-19 contaminations by 250%

Translated by: Julia Abdalla

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo |
Escalation of violence, malaria, and covid threaten the Yanomamis: indigenous land is targeted in miners' firearm attack
Escalation of violence, malaria, and covid threaten the Yanomamis: indigenous land is targeted in miners' firearm attack - Marcelo Camargo / Agência Brasil

For decades, Yanomami lands have been suffering the abuses of wildcat mining and several other attacks. The largest indigenous reservation in Brazil, the territory is located between the states of Amazonas and Roraima and has 29 thousand indigenous residents in it. 

The most recent attack was registered on a video that circulated on social media this week. It shows the exact moment when miners approached one of the communities on a vessel and started shooting women and children that were by the riverside. A member of the District Council of Indigenous Health in Yanomami lands, Júnior Hekurari talked to Brasil de Fato about the attacks that have threatened the natives in the area for decades. 

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“The situation is very serious. The attacks may resume any time and the Yanomami are really scared. We are asking for an immediate intervention of the Federal Police, the Army, the national forces so that the communities are kept safe”, he affirmed. 

With the presence of wildcat miners, contamination of the Yanomamis by COVID-19 grew by 250% in 2020, according to a report produced by researchers and community leaders.

The indigenous also faced a malaria outbreak recently with more than 10 thousand cases in the territory, and infant malnutrition affects 80% of the Yanomami children. Antônio Eduardo, a member of the Missionary Indigenist Council (CIMI), reports that the complaints about children’s deaths by malnutrition increased due to the recent removal by the government of the medical teams that worked in the territory, which left the area completely unassisted.  

In an interview with Brasil de Fato in February 2021, anthropologist Ana Maria Machado, who also integrates the Network in Favor of Yanomami and Yekweana, talked about the lack of public policies for the Yanomami: 

“What we see specifically in the case of the Yanomami, is that a massive deterioration of the public health system is happening due to a lack of serious and efficient management, mainly aimed at preventing diseases and providing treatment in the villages themselves, so that patients don’t have to go to the cities”, she said. 

According to Machado, sanitary and health state personnel are very reduced in the region, burdening the very few workers who continue in indigenous lands. 

“So this is a way to kill them silently through neglect. In addition to this, there is also the criminalizing of organizations that offer natives support, that have been partners in the indigenous struggle for their rights and for having their voices heard, as well as improving the healthcare provided to these populations.” 

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At the beginning of this month, the Yanomami association Hutukara received a complaint that the vaccines against COVID-19 destined to the indigenous populations were being diverted to miners in exchange for gold. The community has asked for an immediate response. 

Illegal mining is a very old problem. Even before the demarcation of the Indigenous Land, which took place in 1992, the Yanomami lived through a dramatic period in history. In the latter years of the 1980s, the land where they lived was invaded by more than 40 thousand miners. At that time, things were also completely out of control. Statistics point to more than a thousand Yanomamis dying during that period, due to diseases and violence linked to mining. 


Edited by: Luiza Mançano