The death of Brazilian anthropologist Bruno Araujo Pereira
Bruno Araujo Pereira.

He was considered one of the greatest scholars of indigenous peoples of his generation. Bruno Araujo Pereira died on Sunday, June 5, at the age of 41, the victim of an assassination which also claimed the life of British journalist Dom Phillips. Occurring in still murky circumstances, the murder is said to have taken place near the Itaguai River, on the margins of the indigenous land of Vale do Javari, deep in the Brazilian Amazon. An event that has aroused the fear of environmental defenders in Brazil as in the rest of the world.

The latter was a familiar face in the great rainforest. The man impressed first of all by his stature: sturdy with a full beard, severe glasses and natural authority, he embodied the adventurer and the leader of an Amazonian expedition. But “Bruno” was above all a renowned anthropologist, a specialist in indigenous peoples, in particular the “isolated” and “uncontacted”, without no connection with the outside world.

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For years already, the “indigenous” knew that he was threatened with death. The author of these lines had had the chance to meet him in Manaus, at the end of August 2021, back from a report in the Vale do Javari. Seated on the terrace of a bar located on the place of the mythical theater of the city, “Bruno” then agreed to talk until late at night about his unique experience of the Amazon terrain. At the same time prolix and precise, warm and pedagogical, the man, at sometimes sad and often shifty look, was worried for his own safety, but also for the fate of these indigenous peoples he had sworn to protect. We felt then in him a mixture of rage, urgency and frustration.

Methodical and go-getter

Born in 1981 in the northeastern state of Paraiba and raised in Recife, Pereira is a bright and versatile young man who studied journalism, took an interest in cinema, before working in public administration. But his obsession remains the Amazon. After working for a few years north of Manaus, in 2010 he managed to join the National Indian Foundation (Funai), an organization watching over the Brazilian indigenous peoples. Passionate about “isolated” and “uncontacted” peoples, he took the path of the indigenous land Vale do Javari, in the northwest of the country, which hosts the largest concentration of them in the world. Covered by an impenetrable canopy, accessible only by boat or helicopter, the place fascinates the young anthropologist, who manages to obtain the post of regional coordinator of Funai, based in the municipality of Atalaia do Norte.

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