Brazilian Gold Miners Massacre Yanomami Indians


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:51 AM EDT, 31 August 2012

Yanomami Men, Known as Horonami, Photo by CannivalsCARACAS, Venezuela — In a scene that evoked the horrors of the 1993 massacre in an Amazonas village called Haximú in which 16 Yanomami were murdered, Venezuelan authorities are now investigating the July 2012 massacre of approximately 80 residents of a village called Irotatheri.

This is the third confirmed incident in which illegal miners have murdered Yanomami Indians in pursuit of gold. The Venezuelan authorities reported in 2010 that four people in an indigenous community died after drinking water contaminated by miners.

The Yanomami have often had to contend with Brazilian gold miners, known in Portuguese as garimpeiros, who for years have crossed into Venezuela and torn up the forest, leaving pits of water laced with mercury. (Source: Associated Press)

This latest encroachment and violence was reported by villagers from Hokomawe who walked for 15 days to relay information of the massacre to authorities in Puerto Ayacucho, the capital of Amazonas State in southern Venezuela.

The Yanomami are a peaceful people and one of the largest indigenous groups of people who live deep in the Amazon jungle.  Also known as the Horonami, the group is well-known because they have been the subject of numerous anthropological studies, the first of which was published in the late 1960s. This book has subsequently become required reading for anthropology, sociology, and ethnography university students.

The Yanomami maintain a traditional way of life deep in the jungle. Their village, Irotatheri, sits along the upper reaches of the Ocamo River. The three surviving members of the village were hunting when they heard the report of gunfire and the sound of a helicopter flying overhead.

Because of increased negative interactions with the illegal Brazilian miners who use helicopters to transport supplies, equipment, and gold, the hunters hurried back to the village to protect their loved ones. Upon their arrival they were horrified to discover the burned and charred remains of family and friends.

It has been alleged that this wasn’t just about the continued encroachment by illegal gold miners, but according to the three surviving members’ account, the miners attacked in retaliation because some men in the community had been "rescuing Yanomami women" who were possibly being sexually abused and imprisoned by the miners.  Source: New York Times

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