How the heck is a primitive hunter-gatherer tribe supposed to survive without government handouts?
Armed with spears and bows, dozens of indigenous protesters in Brazil vowed Thursday to maintain a roadblock on a key highway until the authorities listen to their demands for help fighting COVID-19 and deforestation.
Members of the Kayapo Mekranoti ethnic group have been blocking highway BR-163 through the Amazon since Monday outside the northern town of Novo Progresso.
But they vowed that they would no longer lift their blockade periodically to let truckers through, as they had done for the past two days.
“We’re going to stay right here until the government sends its representatives to talk with us,” one protest leader, Mudjere Kayapo, told AFP.
The highway is the main artery to ship corn and soybeans, two of Brazil’s main exports, from the country’s central-western agricultural heartland.
A federal judge has ordered the protesters to stand down, citing the economic damage they are inflicting.
She rejected an appeal Wednesday, and has ordered the federal police to remove the protesters if they do not comply.
The Kayapo Mekranoti warned that would lead to violence.
“We do not want to fight. But we will not accept the army or police coming here and removing us by force. If that happens, there will be blood spilled on the asphalt,” they said in a letter to the government’s indigenous affairs office, FUNAI.
Wearing feather headdresses and body paint, the protesters burned a letter from FUNAI rejecting some of their demands and calling for patience on others.
The Kayapo Mekranoti are demanding far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s government release funds they say they are owed for environmental damage the highway caused to their land.
They also want help fighting illegal mining, deforestation and the new coronavirus, which has hit especially hard among indigenous people in the region.
As a journalist, I always have questions about bizarre situations.
Did literal savages from the Amazon jungle come up with the idea to block traffic and demand the government give them free things? Or did someone go to them to use them for political purposes, saying “you can get free things”?
One scenario seems significantly more likely than the other option.
Further: do these people really go around with headdresses and facepaint as a matter of course? Or is this a costume they put on for the cameras, in the vein of a renaissance festival?
I don’t have the money to send someone to the Amazon to investigate these issues, but I have Google. Most of the images you see of the Kayapo tribe show them in this traditional clothing, but it’s obvious that those would be the popular pictures, as without those clothes, they’re just generic brown people that could be in any shithole.
So what you would need to find is a picture of someone in tribal clothing with other people behind them.
In this image, the majority of the onlookers are wearing normal clothing and at least one (bottom left in blue) can be seen recording the girl on a smart phone:
It’s almost as if dressing up in traditional outfits is something they do only rarely, and when they do it, it’s reason enough for a crowd to gather around and look.
As a journalist, it is appalling to me that the journalists on the ground do not ask these questions in such a weird situation.
What I will say is this: this is one group of people I could actually believe are having trouble with the flu virus – if they’re an actual remote tribe, given the obvious immune system problems such people have. Here’s an interesting piece about a remote tribe getting influenza.
However, if they’re a remote tribe, where did they even come into contact with the virus?
Out on the road demanding things?