The devastating, irreparable death of Aruká Juma
Aruká Juma / Odair Leal/Amazônia Real

Manaus, Amazonas — The death of the last survivor of the Juma people, the warrior Amoim Aruká, from complications linked to COVID-19, is an incalculable tragedy. The Juma people suffered innumerable massacres throughout their history. There were 15,000 of them at the turn of the 20th century and by 2002 there were only five Jumas left.

The genocide that led to their almost complete extermination was confirmed but never punished. The final massacre occurred in 1964 on the banks of the Assuã river, in the Purus River basin, and was perpetrated by townspeople from Tapauá, a municipality in the interior of Amazonas state, intent on harvesting the star apple and brazil nut trees on Juma territory. More than 60 Juma people were murdered. There were only seven survivors.

Members of the band of exterminators hired by the townspeople said that shooting the Juma was no different than shooting monkeys. In the days after the massacre, local riverbank dwellers reported seeing wild pigs feasting on the Jumas’ remains and reported that there were numerous severed heads on the forest floor. The man who ordered the crime, when he learned that it had been carried out, boasted that he was the one responsible for “liberating Tapauá from those ferocious beasts.” This story must never be forgotten.

Aruká, one of the survivors, continued his resistance struggle, seeing his people on the verge of extinction. He fought for the demarcation of his people’s lands which were only ratified as an Indigenous Territory (TI) belonging to the Juma in 2004. The survivors, on the verge of disappearing, would see their people grow again in the first decade of the 21st century through intermarriage with the Uru Eu Wau Wau people who, like the Juma, spoke Tupi-Kagwahiva.

As they were subject to immense vulnerability and risk of disappearance, Juma people were considered among those “recently contacted” and included with other highly vulnerable people to be protected by Sanitary Barriers, whose installation was determined by the Supreme Federal Tribunal at the request of Indigenous peoples represented by the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), by means of the Articulation of Brazilian Indigenous Peoples (APIB), in the Statement of Non-Compliance with Fundamental Precept 709 (ADPF 709). The request was made in July 2020, and Minister Luis Roberto Barroso conceded.

However, in the face of the Bolsonaro government’s alleged difficulties, he granted a delay until September 2020 for the barriers which would demarcate the Juma Territory to be installed. In August 2020 the Bolsonaro government said that it would install the barrier on the Assuã river, in the Tufari Biological Reserve (REBIO), outside the Juma Indigenous Territory. The Sanitary Barrier would be controlled by the Military Police and overseen by the Humaitá Special Indigenous Sanitary District (DSEI). However, in December 2020, the government stated that it would establish a control post only at the entrance to BR 230—the Trans-Amazon Highway—but did not confirm it as functionally effective.

Whether the control post functioned or not, as representatives from COIAB and APIB have been trying to determine for months in so-called “Situation Rooms” with the Bolsonaro government, no longer matters for Aruká Juma. What can be proved beyond doubt is that now he is dead. Sadly, it seems that the only way the Indigenous people can verify their appeals is with their deaths. Both COIAB and APIB warned that recently contacted Indigenous peoples were at extreme risk.

The last surviving man of the Juma people is dead. Again, the Brazilian government has demonstrated that it is criminally negligent and incompetent. The government assassinated Aruká Juma. Just as it assassinated his ancestors. It is a devastating and irreparable Indigenous loss.

This article is the collective work of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), Articulation of Brazilian Indigenous Peoples (APIB), and Observatory of the Human Rights of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples (OPI).

Translated for People’s World by Peter Lownds. The original publication can be found here.


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