On Nov. 1, a 26-year-old native warrior was murdered by illegal loggers in the Araribóia Indigenous Land in the Amazon Rainforest, specifically at Bom Jesus das Selvas, Maranhão, between the Lagoa Comprida and Jenipapo villages in Brazil (APIB). The territory is home to the Guajajara tribe.
Known as Lobo, a Portuguese term meaning “wolf,” Paulo Paulino Guajajara was a member of the Guardians of the Forest, a group of indigenous natives known to protect the Amazon. According to BBC, the team was ambushed by illegal loggers, who shot Paulino Guajajara in the face and injured tribal leader Laércio Souza Silva Guajajara. The latter was hospitalized but has reached a stable condition.
One of the loggers may have also been injured in the confrontation, but his body is missing. The loggers are yet to be identified by Brazilian investigators.
The Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB) expressed their condolences and lashed out at the Brazilian government.
“The Bolsonaro Government has indigenous blood on their hands. The increased violence in indigenous territories is a direct reflection of their hate speech, as well as their measures against indigenous peoples in Brazil,” APIB said in a statement on their website.
Sonia Guajajara, the executive coordinator of APIB, further castigated the government via social media.
“It’s time to stop this institutionalized genocide!” Guajajara tweeted. “Stop authorizing the bloodshed of our people!”
After emphasizing the value of the Amazon for future generations, APIB discussed some of their initiatives to prevent further violence in the Amazon.
“We need to stop the escalation of this genocidal policy against our indigenous peoples in Brazil,” APIB stated. “That is why we are campaigning around European countries: to alert the world to what is happening in Brazil and to call for support so that not even one drop of indigenous blood is shed.”
The rise of right-wing politician Jair Bolsonaro as the leader of Brazil has left many conservationists concerned over the preservation of the Amazon. As part of his platform, Bolsonaro stated that he would open up more of the forest for economic development in Brazil. In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in late September, Bolsonaro claimed that the rainforest was a sovereign part of Brazil.
“It is a fallacy to say that the Amazon is the heritage of humanity and a misconception, as scientists say, to say our forest is the lungs of the world,” Bolsonaro said. “Availing themselves of such fallacies, one or another country, instead of assisting, fell in with the press’s lies and behaved disrespectfully, with a colonialist spirit. They questioned that which is most sacred to us: our sovereignty!”
Regardless of Bolsonaro’s policies and conflicting views between world leaders and non-government environmental organizations, the Amazon is a critical biome with wide-ranging global impacts. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Amazon houses 10% of the world’s biodiversity, including many native and endangered species of flora and fauna, and the rainforest canopy contributes to regional climate patterns. The area also contains over 350 different ethnic groups.
The presence of illegal loggers in the Amazon leads to deforestation and may irreversibly damage wildlife in the region. Recent investigation has also linked Chinese, American and European businesses with the illegal logging industry (Amazon Watch), though many deny the validity of such reports.
Nevertheless, the death of Paulino Guajajara has brought public attention to the ongoing tragedies within the Amazon. As corroborated by APIB, indigenous peoples should not be considered as facts and statistics, but rather as human beings.
Editor’s note: This story originally was published in Volume 106, Issue 6 of The Guilfordian on Nov. 15 2019.