Rights Group Advocates for Disappeared Indigenous Brazilians

Posted by Engram Wilkinson

A rights group has called upon Brazil’s truth commission to investigate the alleged disappearance of 2,000 indigenous Waimiri Atroari people during the military dictatorship. Egydio Schawde, a former missionary and coordinator of the House of Urubui Culture, says many indigenous people survived the dictatorship but that their testimonies have fallen on deaf ears, “because of the language barrier and because there has been no interest on the part of successive governments, during the dictatorship or after, in listening to the victims.”

The Waimiri Atroari have long resisted hydroelectric and infrastructure projects in the north of Brazil. While the National Foundation of the Indian, a governmental protection agency, claims approximately 1,500 indigenous people live in Amazonas and Roraima, Schawde offers his own statistic: the Waimiri Atroari dwindled in population from 3,000 to 354 from 1968 to 1983, as a result of disease and infrastructure projects. The entrance of testimonies from or on behalf of the Waimiri Atroari could signal the inclusion of additional indigenous voices in the Truth Commission’s investigations of the dictatorship,  importantly allowing these hitherto unheard voices their proper place in the Truth Commission’s proceedings and Brazilian history.

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