November 29, 2020
A road runs through a tract of burnt Amazon jungle near Porto Velho, Rondonia state, Brazil.

Expert on Amazon tribes killed by arrow from uncontacted group

Rieli Franciscato struck in chest as he approached indigenous group he was seeking to shield

A Brazilian government official and expert on isolated Amazon tribes was killed by an arrow as he approached an indigenous group he was seeking to shield.

Rieli Franciscato, 56, spent his career in the government’s indigenous affairs agency, Funai, working to set up reservations to protect uncontacted tribes.

On Wednesday as he moved close to a hitherto uncontacted indigenous group, he was hit by an arrow above the heart in the forest near the Uru Eu Wau Wau reservation in the western Brazilian state of Rondonia, near the border with Bolivia.

“He cried out, pulled the arrow from his chest, ran 50 metres and collapsed, lifeless,” a policeman who accompanied the expedition said in an audio recording posted on social media.

Kanindé, an NGO that Franciscato helped found in the 1980s, said the indigenous group had no ability to distinguish between friend or foe from the outside world.

Indigenous people in Brazil are under increasing threat from invasions by illegal land grabbers, loggers and gold miners emboldened by the policies of the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who wants to develop the Amazon and reduce the size of indigenous reservations.

“We are feeling bewildered by so many deaths in this Brazil that no longer respects indigenous rights,” said Ivaneide Cardozo, Franciscato’s friend and co-founder of the Kanindé association.