It is not only the precious lands of Amazon Indigenous Peoples that are under threat. Their homes and their lives are in jeopardy whenever they stand up for their communities and for the forest. Wherever Indigenous Land Defenders work to protect their homes — as well as the world’s most vital ecosystems — they find themselves increasingly in danger.  

In the latest brazen act by land grabbers in the Amazon, the Munduruku People were violently attacked by gold miners as retaliation for efforts to end such illegal activities. It’s important to publicly bear witness to this violence and take action to protect the Guardians of the Forest. 

The criminal miners — who have been encouraged by the anti-environment administration of Brazil President Jair Bolsonarro — attacked a Munduruku village on 26 May, terrorising the people with gunfire and also setting fire to the homes of prominent community leaders. 

One of the homes set ablaze belonged to Munduruku leader Maria Leusa. Her home was set on fire with gasoline and burned to the ground, according to APIB. Several leaders in other communities have also received threats of similar violence, a local source told Human Rights Watch.  

A building burns in a Munduruku village in the Amazon after an attack from illegal miners in May 2021.
A building burns in a Munduruku village after an attack from illegal miners in May 2021. © Anonymous

The terrorising of the Munduruku and other Indigenous communities in the Amazon must end. 

Violence against forest defenders in the Amazon — and throughout South America — has been distressingly common in recent years. As Indigenous leaders like Maria Leusa have organised communities to safeguard their lands and sought enforcement of preservation laws, profit-hungry miners and loggers have continued to invade. Even during the global pandemic, illegal land grabbers continued to bring destruction and COVID-19 to Indigenous communities. 

This attack came days after the Brazilian Federal Police began taking action against the illegal miners on Munduruku land. The police action is a response to a decision of the Brazilian Supreme Court, which ordered the Federal Government to immediately adopt all measures necessary to protect the life, health, and safety of the Munduruku people. That court decision was the result of a series of reports made by Munduruku leaders to the Federal Public Ministry on criminal actions in the region.

A view of mining in the Munduruku Indigenous Land in Brazil from May 2020. © Marcos Amend / Greenpeace
Mining pushes through and devastates the Munduruku Indigenous Land, impacting people, rivers and the forest itself. © Marcos Amend / Greenpeace

These were not the first attacks suffered by the Munduruku leaders who oppose mining and seek to protect their territories, their homes, and the forest where they live. In March, the headquarters of Associação Wakoborun, an association of Indigenous women against mining on Indigenous land, which is coordinated by Maria Leusa, was destroyed by miners. In recent weeks, the Yanomami people have also suffered constant armed attacks carried out by illegal miners in the Yanomami Land.

Illegal Mining in Yanomami Indigenous Land in Brazil. © Christian Braga / Greenpeace
Overflight records areas of illegal mining within the Yanomani Indigenous Land in Roraima in April 2021 © Christian Braga / Greenpeace

Munduruku Indigenous Land has been systematically invaded by illegal miners: From 2008 to 2020 over 61 km² were destroyed. Sixty-three percent of this destruction took place between 2019 and 2020, under the influence of the Bolsonaro government’s promise to open Indigenous lands to mining.

Greenpeace is committed to the defense and promotion of Indigenous rights in Brazil — and all around the world — and rejects all attempts to put profits over people or the planet. 

We demand an end to  the cycle of destruction that puts in danger not only the future of Indigenous peoples of the Amazon, but of all people everywhere.