After suspected cocaine smugglers from Peru raided a jungle area in western Brazil, a lost Indian tribe that claimed the area as its home vanished according to Brazilian officials. Indian affairs experts in the largest South American country believe that the tribe might have run away in fear after the suspected smugglers raided a Brazilian guard post that was protecting them. Almost 50 pounds of cocaine were found in the area by police officials and, according to a statement, a man who had been deported for drug trafficking this past March was arrested.
Inside one of the gunmen’s backpacks, a broken arrow was found by workers from Brazil’s Indians Affairs Department, FUNAI. Carlos Travassos, the head of the government’s Isolated Indians department, said arrows are like the identity card of uncontacted Indians. “We think the Peruvians made the Indians flee,” he said. “We are more worried than ever.” The chief of the tribes’ guard post, José Carlos Meirelle, said he found groups of men armed with guns in the jungle upon his return to the area.
According to Survival International, an organization that works for the rights of tribal peoples, about 2,000 lost or “uncontacted” Indians live in the jungle areas of the western Amazon. The tribe made headlines earlier this year after photos were released showing men, women, and children, painted red, living in huts and growing their own food.
The New York Daily News reports that some officials now fear that the area once occupied by the tribe has turned into an entry point into the Latin American country for drug pushers. “This situation could be one of the biggest blows we have ever seen in the protection of uncontacted Indians in recent decades,” Travassos said. "It's a catastrophe."