Pubdate: Tue, 09 Aug 2011 Source: Toronto Star (CN ON) Copyright: 2011 The Toronto Star Contact: http://www.thestar.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/456 Author: Kenyon Wallace, Toronto Star UNCONTACTED AMAZON INDIAN TRIBE MISSING AFTER ATTACK BY SUSPECTED DRUG TRAFFICKERS One of the world's last uncontacted Indian tribes in the Amazon rainforest is nowhere to be found after a guard post protecting the indigenous clan was attacked by suspected drug traffickers, Brazilian authorities say. A preliminary survey of the tribe's lands near the Envira River on the western Brazil-Peru border by government officials has revealed no trace of the tribe, the existence of which was made public in February with the release of rare aerial photographs. Fiona Watson, research director of the tribal peoples' rights group Survival International, which is working with the Brazilian government's Indian Affairs Department, told the Star her organization fears for the survival of the indigenous tribe -- believed to have about 200 members -- after a backpack believed to have belonged to a drug trafficker was found with a broken arrow inside. She said the reported discovery of a package containing 20 kilograms of cocaine in tribal lands has authorities worried that drug traffickers are using the Envira as route to gain entry into Brazil. "The fear is that even if these uncontacted Indians haven't been targeted and killed by drug traffickers, the more people that come into the area increases the likelihood that there will be some sort of encounter with the tribe, meaning the risk of transmitting diseases becomes higher," Watson said. "These people have been isolated for so long that they have no immunity to things like colds and the flu. That's a huge concern." Carlos Travassos, the head of Brazil's Indian Affairs Department (commonly referred to as FUNAI, its Portuguese acronym), said arrows are the "identity cards" of uncontacted Indians. He believes Peruvians crossing the border forced the tribe to flee. "We are more worried than ever," he said in a statement released by Survival International. "This situation could be one of the biggest blows we have ever seen in the protection of uncontacted Indians in recent decades. It's a catastrophe." The government has a strict non-contact policy concerning isolated tribes. It opts to set up guard posts to ensure that others do not encroach on their territory. The guard post within the tribe's territory was ransacked late last week, with the perpetrators making off with large quantities of ammunition, Watson said. It is believed that some of the attackers are taking refuge in the nearby jungle. Another possible cause of the tribe's disappearance, Watson said, is the proliferation of illegal logging along the Peruvian side of the border, which is believed to be forcing other uncontacted tribes to cross over into Brazil. "The Brazilian authorities are very worried about this, because they feel sooner or later there will be violent clashes between various different uncontacted groups who have very clear notions of territory," she said. The tribe, likely part of the Pano linguistic group that inhabits the border between Brazil, Peru and Bolivia, is one of 14 uncontacted settlements in the region, according to FUNAI. All groups face threats from logging, mining, illegal fishing and hunting, and even missionary work, the department says. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.