Last Surviving Man Of Amazon’s Juma Tribe Dies Of Coronavirus Likely Spread By Loggers
The last surviving man of the Juma tribe in Brazil has died from coronavirus after invading loggers, miners and landgrabbers are thought to have spread the disease.
Aruká Juma became the last male member of the tribe following the death of his brother-in-law in 1999.
The Amazon tribe dwindled from an estimated 15,000 in the 18th century to approximately 100 in 1943 as a result of disease and massacres by rubber tappers, loggers and miners, while another massacre in 1964 left only six surviving members, including Aruká.
On February 17, Aruká passed away in a hospital in Pôrto Velho, the capital of the Brazilian state of Rondônia. He was believed to have been between 86 and 90 years old.
The tribe member’s death was attributed to coronavirus, according to his grandson Puré Juma Uru Eu Wau Wau, The New York Times reports.
Campaigners have accused the Brazilian government of genocide as coronavirus threatens to ‘wipe out’ uncontacted and isolated Amazon tribes, with activists claiming that invading loggers, miners and landgrabbers are spreading the virus to the rainforest’s indigenous people.
Due to their isolated way of living, tribe members have little immunity to many diseases, leaving them particularly vulnerable to the spread of illness.
Speaking to The Sun, Sarah Shenker, from tribe conservation charity Survival International, said: ‘Where invaders are present, coronavirus could wipe out whole peoples. It’s a matter of life and death.’
If their lands are properly protected from outsiders, uncontacted tribes — those who avoid contact with mainstream society — should be relatively safe from the coronavirus pandemic.
But many of their territories are being invaded and stolen for logging, mining and agribusiness, with the encouragement of President Bolsonaro, who has virtually declared war on Brazil’s indigenous peoples.
More than 970 tribe members are reported to have died from coronavirus so far, with the Coordinating Body for Indigenous Organizations in the Brazilian Amazon (APIB) saying the death rate among the tribes is 58% higher than the general population, while the infection rate is 68% higher.
Aruká’s first wife, Mborehá, died in 1996 and his three daughters all married members of the Uru Eu Wau Wau tribe. Aruká also had a daughter with a member of that tribe, Boropo Uru Eu Wau Wau, who he separated from in 2007.
Aruká reflected on his tribe’s history for an article on the culture and lifestyle website Riscafaca.com in 2016, commenting: ‘These days, I feel alone and think a lot about back when there were many of us.’
He added: ‘We were many before the rubber tappers and the prospectors came to kill all the Juma people. Back then, the Juma were happy. Now there is only me.’
As well as being the sole surviving man of the Juma tribe, Aruká was also the last fluent speaker of the tribe’s language, meaning that many of the tribe’s traditions and rituals will be forever lost with his death.