Amazon tribe down to five as oldest
‘The final stages of a genocide’
The Akuntsu tribe in the Brazilian
Amazon has lost its oldest member,
Ururú, leaving the tribe with only five
Ururú was the oldest member of this
close-knit, tiny group and an integral
part of it. Altair Algayer, head of the
FUNAI (Brazilian government Indian
affairs department) team which protects
the Akuntsu’s land said, ‘She was a
fighter, strong, and resisted until the
last moment.’ In addition, the
oldest-surviving Akuntsu, Ururú's
brother Konibu, is seriously ill.
Ururú witnessed the genocide of her
people and the destruction of their
rainforest home, as cattle ranchers and
their gunmen moved on to indigenous
lands in Rondônia state. Rondônia was
opened up by government colonisation
projects and the infamous BR 364 highway
in the 1960s and 70s.
Ururú dies a large part of the
historical memory of this people. While
we shall perhaps never know the full
horrors inflicted on the Akuntsu in the
last half century, today’s survivors say
their family members were killed when
ranchers bulldozed their houses and
opened fire on them. The two surviving
men, Konibú and Pupak, have marks on
their bodies where bullets entered as
FUNAI found the remains of houses which
had been destroyed by ranchers who were
clearing the forest for cattle pasture.
The ranchers attempted to hide evidence
of the crime, but wooden poles, arrows,
axes and broken pottery were discovered.
When the Akuntsu were contacted by FUNAI
in 1995 they numbered seven. The
youngest, Konibú’s daughter, died in
Today they live in a territory
officially recognised by the Brazilian
government, where FUNAI protects their
land from invasion by surrounding
ranchers. Survival’s Director Stephen
Corry said today, ‘With Ururú’s death we
are seeing the final stages of a 21st
century genocide. Unlike mass killings
in Nazi Germany or Rwanda, the genocides
of indigenous people are played out in
hidden corners of the world, and escape
public scrutiny and condemnation.
Although their numbers are small, the
result is just as final. Only when this
persecution is seen as akin to slavery
or apartheid will tribal peoples begin
to be safe.’
The story of the Akuntsu, their
neighbours the Kanoê, and the elusive
‘Man of the Hole’ is graphically told in
a new Brazilian film, Corumbiara. The
Akuntsu also feature in Survival’s short
film, Uncontacted Tribes.
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