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High-risk expedition succeeds with isolated tribe in Brazil

April 5, 2019
In this 2019 handout photo released by Brazil's National Indian Foundation, or FUNAI, a Korubo man smiles up at the camera as a FUNAI member checks his heart rate during an expedition to the Javari Valley, in Brazil. The Brazilian agency for indigenous peoples say the high-risk expedition in the Amazon reunited an isolated group with relatives and eased tensions with a rival tribe in the region. (Brazil's National Indian Foundation Photo via AP)
In this 2019 handout photo released by Brazil's National Indian Foundation, or FUNAI, a Korubo man smiles up at the camera as a FUNAI member checks his heart rate during an expedition to the Javari Valley, in Brazil. The Brazilian agency for indigenous peoples say the high-risk expedition in the Amazon reunited an isolated group with relatives and eased tensions with a rival tribe in the region. (Brazil's National Indian Foundation Photo via AP)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s agency for indigenous peoples said Friday that a high-risk expedition in the Amazon has reunited an isolated group with relatives and eased tensions with a rival tribe near the border with Peru.

The FUNAI agency said a team of nearly two dozen reached 34 members of the Korubo tribe in the Brazilian state of Amazonas. The expedition included relatives of the Korubos and also aimed to avoid a possible conflict with the Matis tribe living about 12 miles (20 kilometers) away.

The Matis tribe repeatedly requested FUNAI’s intervention in the case because they believed the isolated Korubos wanted revenge, mistakenly believing their relatives had been killed by the Matis.

The main concern of FUNAI analysts was that the isolated group would not believe that the Korubos in the expedition were in fact their relatives, which made them label the mission as “high risk.”

“It was actually quite moving. We soon found one of the two Korubos we saw first was a brother of one of the members of the expedition,” said FUNAI coordinator Bruno Pereira. “There was a lot of emotion and tears.”

The trip lasted 32 days in the Javari Valley, an area of more than 8 million hectares (nearly 31,000 square miles), or bigger than Hungary.

Brazilian law states that contact with isolated tribes can be used only as a last resort to preserve the lives of indigenous peoples and the expedition was FUNAI’s biggest since 1996. It is also the agency’s first major operation during the administration of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazil’s new leader has often criticized bodies that handle indigenous issues. He has also promised to stop demarcation of indigenous lands and allow miners and farmers to operate in their lands.

FUNAI’s chairman Franklinberg de Freitas, appointed by Bolsonaro, called the expedition “a landmark.”

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Savarese reported from Madrid.

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