A top Brazilian expert on different Amazon tribes has been killed by an arrow that strikes him in the chest, as he approached an indigenous site.
Riley Franciscato, 56, died on Wednesday in a remote region of Rondônia, northwestern Brazil.
He was in the area to supervise a tribe as part of his work for the government’s indigenous agency, Funai.
Witnesses said Mr. Franciscato and his party were engulfed in flames as they approached an indigenous group.
Witnesses said Mr. Franciscato, who went with the police, attempted to take refuge in the back of a vehicle, but struck an arrow in the chest.
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A policeman who witnessed the incident said that Mr. Franciscato succeeded in removing the arrow, which struck his heart.
The officer said in an audio recording posted on social media, “He wept, shot an arrow from his chest, fell 50 meters (164 feet) and lifeless.”
A photo journalist from the area, Gabriel Uchida, told AFP news agency that Mr. Franciscato was trying to inspect the tribe known as the “Catario River Isolated Group”.
Mr Uchida, who witnessed the incident, said the tribe was usually “a peaceful group”, but “this time, there were just five armed people – a war party”.
Indigenous groups in the Amazon and elsewhere in the world have been known to violently react to their lands by outsiders.
In the 1980s Mr. Franciscato, a non-governmental organization The Coninde Ethno-Environmental Defense Association, stated that the indigenous group did not have the ability to distinguish between a friend or foe of the outside world.
Indigenous leaders say incidents with illegal mining, logging on farmers and their ancestral lands have become commonplace since Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019, promising to develop the Amazon region.
Conservationists blamed Mr. Bolsonaro and his government for defense agencies, including Funai and environmental enforcement agency Ibama, and ignored deforestation farmers and woodcutters in the Amazon while prohibiting deforestation.
But Mr. Bolsonaro has long questioned the need for large indigenous reservations in the rainforest, and defended developing the Amazon by opening protected areas for farming and mining.
In Funai, Mr. Francisato led a program to protect isolated indigenous groups.
“Rilai dedicated her life to the indigenous. She had more than three decades of service, and leaves a huge legacy for the safety of these people,” said Ricardo Lopes Dias, official of Fana’i.
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