Miners steal Yanomami baby; community burnt down in Roraima

After raping and killing a 12 year old girl, invaders buy indigenous peoples’ silence with gold
Foto: Júnior Hekurari

The Aracaçá community at the Yanomami indigenous land in Roraima was burnt down on Wednesday, April 27,th. This week, a 12 year old girl was kidnapped and raped by illegal miners with activities around the Uricacoera river. Another 3 year old child was also taken by the invaders, but disappeared after falling in the river and has not yet been found. 

By Martha Raquel, from Jornalistas Livres
Translated by Pedro Köberle

The crimes occurred on Monday (25) and the indigenous peoples immediately notified the  Conselho Distrital de Saúde Indígena Yanomami e Ye’kwana (Condisi-YY), the Distrito de Saúde Indígena (DSEI), Secretaria Especial de Saúde Indígena (SESAI), Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI), the federal police and the federal attorney’s office.

The following day, support teams from the Federal Police, MPF, FUNAI and SESAI were deployed. Due to the weather, however, it was not possible to visit the site. The teams only managed to arrive at the community on Wednesday, the 27th

“Upon arriving at the site, we saw the community on fire and no indigenous residents around, who only appeared 40 minutes after we landed”, reported Júnior Hekurari Yanomami, president of CONDISI-YY.

According to Hekurari, the only ones to return to the community were the indigenous people who worked with the miners. They returned in order to gather materials and refused to talk about the kidnapping, rape and murder of the Yanomami girl. According to local leadership, the indigenous people allegedly received 5g of gold from the miners for their silence

According to a statement from Hutukara Associação Yanomami (HAY), the lack of collaboration from indigenous people in reporting the crime can make it difficult for the Federal Police and the Federal Public Ministry to investigate. The teams returned to the community on Thursday (28) and found no one else around. 

In the statement, Hutukara Associação Yanomami (HAY) spoke on the situation and have helped investigate the information provided by the Yanomami. As reported by the Association, a study conducted by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) found significant traces of mining-related mercury in the inhabitants of the Aracaçá comunity. 

The video below shows the community in flames as well as the damage done by illegal mining to the Yanomami’s air, land and water. 

Stolen Newborn

Despite not commenting on this week’s case, the indigenous people told teams that visited the community about other crimes that took place there. According to them, a newborn baby was taken by the miners to Boa Vista against its mother’s wishes. An invader claimed to be the child’s father.

According to the “Yanomami Under Attack” report, released this month by Hutukara, the Aracaçá Community is “on the way to disappearing” because of clandestine activity. The community, close to the Palimiu region, had only 24 people before it was burned.

The report points out that the indigenous people “have stopped clearing swiddens and now depend on the food offered by miners in exchange for their services, such as carrying fuel and carrying out small canoe charters”.

“There, according to the Palimiu Theli [people], the miners introduced drinks and a ‘white powder’ that left the Sanöma [people] addicted, inebriated and violent”, states an excerpt from the document, which also highlights the problems brought by alcoholic beverages.

Foto: Júnior Hekurari

Farewell ritual

According to Hekurari, the indigenous people ritually  of burn the body of a dead relative [as the indigenous people call themselves]. During the visit, marks of the burning of a body were found, possibly that of the girl raped and murdered by the miners.

This Friday morning, some Indigenous leaders met and analyzed the images of the burned community. They reported that it is part of the tradition and customs of those people to abandon the community when a loved one who used to live there passes away.

It is not yet known whether the indigenous people left the space of their own will or whether they were threatened by the invaders. The origin of the fire is also unknown, and could be caused by the indigenous people, illegal miners or an accident related to the ritual.

Struggle for life

“It is yet another sad outcome of illegal mining in the Yanomami Indigenous Land, which is still occupied by more than 20,000 invading miners. By September 2021, the forest area destroyed by illegal mining in the Yanomami Indigenous Land exceeded the 3,000 hectare mark – a 44% increase compared to December 2020. The increase in invader activity has negatively impacted the life of the Forest Peoples, which leads to an increase in crime within the Territory, diseases and death”, according to the statement from the Yanomami and Ye’kwana District Indigenous Health Council.

CONDISI-YY guarantees that it will continue to investigate and demand that the competent government bodies act for the immediate removal of criminals who are in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory.

FUNAI, the Federal Public Ministry, the Superintendence of the Federal Police and the Attorney General’s Office were all contacted, but until the closing of this report, no response was provided.

Este texto foi traduzido pela Cooperativa Ponto e Vírgula, em parceria com os Jornalistas Livres. Para consultas e traduções entre em contato pelo Instagram @pontoevirgulacoop ou pelo e-mail [email protected]