Uncontacted Tribe Missing, Drug Traffickers Suspected

| Tue Aug. 9, 2011 7:50 PM EDT

An uncontacted tribe of Indians living in Brazil near the Peruvian border is missing after what looks like a skirmish with drug traffickers. Aerial pictures of the tribe quickly circulated the globe earlier this year. The tribe is now feared for since the guard post near their territory has been taken over by suspected drug traders using the remote area as a route to pass product between Brazil and Peru. Authorities found a backpack with a broken arrow inside it and a 20kg package of cocaine nearby. According to a Survival International press release, men with sub-machine guns and rifles now occupy the area that once held the guard post.

Carlos Travassos, head of a Brazilian government department that deals with isolated peoples, said: "Arrows are like the identity card of uncontacted Indians... we are more worried than ever. This situation could be one of the biggest blows we have ever seen in the protection of uncontacted Indians in recent decades. It's a catastrophe."

Drug traffickers may not have only endangered the tribe by violence, they could also likely carry diseases or bacteria that the tribes have no resistance to. For example, half of the previously uncontacted Nahua tribe of Peru was wiped out in the 1980s after the government allowed Shell to drill for oil nearby. For this reason, approaching uncontacted tribes is illegal in many places, even for missionaries who are deeply concerned with saving their souls. Logging and deforestation are also threats to uncontacted peoples. To see the tribe that's recently disappeared for yourself from a safe distance, Survival International's aerial video footage of them is below.

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