“The number of Amazon fires this year matters, but so does where they occur, especially as they threaten Brazil’s isolated uncontacted Indigenous groups, while also polluting waterways with ash.”
“Amazon fires this year are seriously threatening Indigenous territories in which isolated uncontacted Indigenous groups make their homes. Brazil has an estimated 100+ isolated Indigenous groups living within its borders, more than any other Amazonian nation.
Particularly threatened by fires in 2020 are the isolated Ãwa people who live on Bananal Island in Tocantins state; the uncontacted Awá inhabiting the Arariboia Indigenous Reserve in Maranhão state; and uncontacted groups in the Uru Eu Wau Wau Indigenous territory in Rondônia and Ituna Itatá Indigenous territory in Pará, the Brazilian state with the highest deforestation and land conflicts rates.
All of these Indigenous territories are under intense pressure from land grabbers, illegal loggers and ranchers, with many of this year’s fires thought to have been set intentionally as a means of converting protected rainforest to pasture and cropland.
Meanwhile, the Jair Bolsonaro government has hobbled IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, defunding it and preventing it from fighting fires, causing one critic to accuse the administration of having “waged war against Indigenous peoples” and of “an ongoing genocide.””