Murdered indigenous defender Bruno Pereira has been buried in his home state of Pernambuco in Brazil after a small ceremony attended by relatives and local tribes.
Dozens of indigenous people from the Xukuru tribe paraded around his coffin singing farewell rituals to the beat of their percussion instruments on Friday.
Naked and wearing headdresses made from palm leaves, they greeted a man who spent much of his life working with isolated communities in remote parts of the Amazon rainforest.
“We will continue our fight without them,” said one of the tribe’s leaders in a brief speech in front of the casket and alongside Pereira’s wife, Beatriz Matos.
Pereira’s coffin was covered with flags from Pernambuco and its soccer team, Sport Recife.
The 41-year-old father of three died June 5 when he and British journalist Dom Phillips were shot to deathon the Itaquaí River in the extreme west of Brazil.
phillips was writing a book on sustainable development in the Amazon and the two men were returning from an information trip when local fishermen allegedly attacked their boat. Shots were exchanged and Pereira took three hits and Phillips one.
Three men are in custody and police are looking for more for allegedly helping dispose of the bodies.
Although the authorities initially said that the killers acted alone, the officer in charge of the investigation is now reversing that hypothesis. “It is possible that there is an intellectual author behind this,” said Eduardo Fonte. “The investigation is ongoing. We are looking at everything and we will leave no stone unturned. We’ll find out what happened and what didn’t happen.”
Loggers, gold prospectors, ranchers and drug traffickers are encroaching on indigenous land in the remote Javari Valley, local groups say, and hunters and fishermen are known to catch protected species of animals and fish. Locals claim that organized crime groups active in the area could have been involved in the killings.
Pereira was working with an indigenous organization called Univaja. He helped the tribesmen who lived in the Javari Valley to delineate their land and protect it from invaders.
Pereira had previously worked with Funai, the Brazilian government’s indigenous foundation. He was removed from his position in 2019 after leading a successful operation to destroy an illegal mining operation on indigenous land.
He found a new home working with NGOs in the Javari Valley, monitoring uncontacted indigenous tribes living in one of the most remote corners of Brazil.
“Today the land where he was born receives him, his body is reunited with the mud, the roots of the plants, the water and the heat of the earth”, the Human Rights Observatory of Isolated and Recent Contact Indigenous Peoples (OPI) , one such NGO, said in a statement.
Phillips, a longtime contributor to The Guardian, will be buried on Sunday in Niteroi, near Rio de Janeiro. The 57-year-old journalist will be buried on land belonging to his wife’s family.
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