(By Tom Phillips – The Guardian – June 13, 2022) – The men gathered around a campfire at just after dawn, members of different Indigenous groups united in their determination to find Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips.
“We’re going to do everything we can to find them. We will not give up,” vowed Fabrício Ferreira Amorim, one of the Indigenous advocates coordinating the latest search mission for the two missing men.
Among the two dozen volunteers assembled in the jungle clearing that morning were members of four Indigenous peoples from the Javari region of the Brazilian Amazon: the Mayuruna, the Marubo, the Kanamari and the Matis.
Cristóvão Negreiros, a veteran Indigenous defender who works with Pereira and was supposed to have been travelling with the men the day they vanished, urged the volunteers not to lose hope.
“We are here to fight for Bruno and to ensure this never happens again,” Negreiros told them as the group prepared to set off along the Itaquaí River for day seven of their quest for the truth about what happened to the British journalist and the Brazilian Indigenous advocate when they vanished in the early hours of last Sunday.
Armed with machetes and hunting rifles and divided into six small motorboats, the men set off south along the river towards the spot where the pair are thought to have last been seen.
“Bruno wanted to defend us and teach us how to protect our territories,” said Binin Matis, a 31-year-old volunteer who Pereira had taken under his wing. “Now we want to defend him by finding something.”
Exactly a week after Pereira and Phillips vanished while returning from a four-day reporting trip down the Itaquaí hopes of finding them alive have all but evaporated.
“They are no longer with us,” the Brazilian mother-in-law of Phillips, a longtime Guardian collaborator, wrote on Instagram on Saturday. “Their souls have joined those of so many others who gave their lives in defence of the rainforest and Indigenous peoples.”
Among the Indigenous volunteer teams who have been tirelessly spearheading the search process, there is also a growing understanding that they will not be able to bring Pereira and Phillips home alive.https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2022/06/amazonsearch-zip/giv-6562An6jSN5LV79I/
In recent days, as the Guardian has followed them deep into the region’s jungles, volunteers have increasingly come to refer to the missing men in the past tense.
On Sunday, rescue workers announced they had found a backpack, a laptop and a pair of sandals near the riverside home of Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, the fisherman police have in custody and are investigating over the disappearances.
“It’s a whirlwind of anger and sadness,” said Luiz Fernandes de Oliveira Neto, a 39-year-old Indigenous specialist who is part of the search operation.
Yet that awful realisation has done nothing to blunt the resolve of members of the search team. They all knew Pereira and several had met Phillips in the days before their disappearance.
“He interviewed me and asked me what was happening in the Javari so he could tell the world about it,” said Tumi Matis, who is part of an Indigenous environmental monitoring group known by its Portuguese acronym “Evu”.
At shortly after 8am on Saturday morning the team set off from their riverside “Base Evu” to examine their latest search zone: a body of water called the Lago do Preguiça or the Sloth’s Lake.
En route they were bombarded by examples of the immense natural beauty that had attracted both Pereira and Phillips to the Amazon in the first place. Murky waterways filled with playful pink river dolphins who periodically sprung from the depths as they chased fish. A wealth of birdlife in spectacular shades of white, blue and red.
Around an hour later one of the boats cut its motor as Binin Matis spotted something strange floating in the water. “Kapët! Kapët!” he shouted at the boatman – the word for alligator in the Pano language spoken by his people.
Ten metres away a dead caiman lay belly upwards. Feasting vultures crashed through the branches above, spooked or perhaps infuriated by the interruption of their meal.
Half an hour later, two of the military policemen who have been travelling with the Indigenous group to provide security saw something else they thought suspicious: a sunken red canoe. The officers inspected it for any trace of the two men but again found nothing.
For three more hours the group pushed on down igarapés – winding, narrow channels accessible only in canoes or other small boats. In flooded forests they hacked and clawed their way through thick vines and thorny branches. But, beyond the occasional fishing net there was almost no sign of human activity, let alone the two missing men.
The afternoon brought dispiriting news for the Indigenous search team, who have now spent seven exhausting days combing the region’s rivers and forests for clues.
As they headed out on to the river to continue their hunt, the men passed federal police forensic science teams who had come to seal off part of the riverbank where Pereira and Phillips are now thought to have suffered an ambush or some kind of attack.
A forensic investigator pulled bright yellow tape around a thicket of semi-submerged trees. Behind her, officers took photographs of something – perhaps a footprint or object – on the forest floor.
Out on the river, Indigenous scouts stared grimly at the scene, where the bright yellow police line contrasted with the red fruits of the munguba trees in the jungle behind.
“Federal police,” read the message on the tape. “Do not pass.”
Northern Territory police minister Kate Worden, who is also the minister for domestic violence, said it had been a ‘heartbreaking week’ after two DV incidents. Photograph: Aaron Bunch/AAP
(By Sarah Krymalowski · CBC News · Iqaluit, NU - August 04, 2022 - Used with Permission) - It's up to a Nunavut judge...
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