The Yanomami tribes have launched a campaign to evict thousands of gold miners from their land in the Brazilian Amazon. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 illegal gold miners have set up shop in Yanomami Park, one of Brazil’s largest indigenous reserves near the Venezuelan border. Gold mining has been disrupting indigenous lands since the 1960s, but now Yanomami fears foreigners are increasing the spread of Covid-19 in some of their communities.
Survival International said that Yanomami and tribal leaders of the National Human Rights Council had recently submitted a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to order the Brazilian government to expel gold from the Yanomami land, in a statement given to IFLScience. A tribunal has ruled that the Brazilian government’s indigenous body, FUNAI, must reopen its security posts in the Yanomami region.
However, it is uncertain whether these measures will actually lead to meaningful government action. Dario Yanomami, of the Hutukara Yanomami Association, said in a statement provided to IFLScience, “For many years we have talked to all the authorities who already know our situation, we have even condemned it at the UN, but so far no one has given us any answer.”
“They diggers are polluting our rivers with mercury, digging huge holes in our land, killing our animals and the environment. Our health is very bad from drinking water contaminated by mining. “I am fighting on behalf of my grandparents for the recognition of my people.
Yanomami is a group of about 35,000 indigenous peoples who live in the rain forests and mountains of northern Brazil and southern Venezuela. They live a hunter-gatherer life which also benefits from shifting farming. Most Yanomami people are in contact with indigenous societies, although they are still isolated and uncontrolled groups. Over the past few decades, tribal society has placed increasing pressure on Yanomami. In the 1960s, a gold rush brought a large number of drunkards to the area, as well as a large number of miners. In 1993, a group of miners entered the village of Haximú and massacred 116 Yanomami people, including a child, and eventually convicted five sailors of genocide.
“We have suffered a lot from the onslaught of gold miners since the 1930s and 1900s. The miners killed us, including our children, as if we were animals. Our population has shrunk by about 22 percent, “added Dario Yanomami. Recent years have seen a resurgence of gold minerals, resulting in further destruction of land as well as mercury contamination in rivers and local animals. Numerous reports on the Yanomami community in the mining areas have highlighted the deadly rate of mercury poisoning.
A recent report also warned that thousands of Yanomamis could be at risk of contracting the Covid-19 because of illegal mining activities near their settlements. So far, at least three Yanomami have died from Covid-9 and dozens have been infected. The Brazilian government has also set up a military barracks in central Yanomami.
According to Survival International, some tribal women were solicited for sex by soldiers and were put at risk for sexually transmitted infections. To put more pressure on the authorities, Yanomami also helped President Jair Bolsonaro’s government create a petition to expel minerals from their territory. The petition already has 270,094 signatures, making them millions of signatures.