Amazon loggers clash with lost tribe – genocide threatened – May 26, 2005
Thursday, May 26, 2005 Posted: 9:42 AM EDT (1342 GMT)

PORTO VELHO, Brazil (Reuters) — A Brazilian Indian tribe armed with bows and arrows and unseen for years has been spotted in a remote Amazon region where clashes with illegal loggers are threatening its existence.

The tiny Jururei tribe numbers only eight to 10 members, and is the second “uncontacted” group to be threatened by loggers this month, after a judge approved cutting in an area of the jungle called Rio Pardo.

Accelerating rainforest destruction threatens the tribes. Deforestation in 2003-04 totaled 10,088 square miles (26,130 sq km), the most in nearly a decade, official figures show.

“The Indians have had conflict with loggers, who are cutting toward them from two different directions,” Rogerio Vargas Motta, director of the Pacaas Novos national park, told Reuters.

He photographed Jururei huts on a recent helicopter flyover of the remote park to catch land grabbers.

One Jururei shot three arrows at the helicopter as it flew overhead, Vargas Motta said.

The tribe’s wood huts have roofs of black plastic tarps found in abandoned logging camps.

Indian rights activists are alarmed.

“Unless Brazil acts now to protect uncontacted tribes, they will disappear off the face of the earth forever. The annihilation of a tribe, however small, is genocide,” said Fiona Watson, Campaigns Coordinator of Survival International in London.

They blame a lack of political will and a powerful lobby of cattle ranchers and soybean farmers for fueling deforestation and threatening Brazil’s 700,000 Indians.

“There’s been a grave lack of funding for conservation on the part of the government,” said Samuel Vieira Cruz, director of Kaninde, a nonprofit group that works to protect two Indian tribes in the area.

Booby traps discovered

In the most recent scuffles, Jururei Indians set booby traps with spikes, piercing the foot of one logger. Loggers are within three miles (5 km) of Indian camps.

Despite the conflicts with outsiders, Indian experts consider the Jururei “uncontacted” because anthropologists have yet to reach and study the tribe and the government has yet to establish ongoing peaceful communication with it.

Sydney Possuelo, director of the uncontacted tribes department at the government’s Indian agency Funai, said it has been years, probably at least a decade, since officials have seen the Jururei.

He said the government’s environmental protection agency, Ibama, has yet to formally inform him of the latest sighting, though neighboring tribes routinely mention signs of their existence. In general, Funai avoids making contact with unknown tribes that are ostensibly protected on reservations, so as to avoid altering their lives or passing diseases.

In other cases, the government tries to make contact when Indians are threatened on unprotected lands or when tribes are tiny and isolated, he said.

Possuelo has teams roaming the Amazon trying to make contact with isolated tribes in need of protection, but he is understaffed and many tribes, like the Jururei, are nomadic or move periodically.

“We have great difficulty because the government does not see our needs for human resources and money,” he said.

That also makes policing park borders difficult and he said “Indian lands are full of invaders.”

Though in 1994 the government mapped land based on evidence of the tribe’s presence, the Jururei have run away from government officials during attempts to contact them.

A translator spoke for several minutes with some Jururei in 1986 before they disappeared into the jungle.

Vieira Cruz said there are as many as eight uncontacted tribes in Rondonia state. Vargas Motta thinks there are three other tribes in and around his park.

Vargas Motta’s 1.89 million acre (764,000 hectare) park sits inside the 4.61 million acre (1.87 million hectare) Uru-eu-au-au Indian reserve, an area the size of a small European country, with hard-to-police boundaries.


MAY 20-22. 2005
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More on hero McSwane.

By John Aguilar, Rocky Mountain News
May 20, 2005

The fallout from an Arvada teenager’s investigative piece for his school newspaper is one reason Army recruiters nationwide will “stand down” today for a refresher class in ethics.

David McSwane never thought his story would get so big when he gave his 15-year-old friend a camcorder, his 11-year-old sister a still camera, and enlisted his mother to keep him out of legal hot water.

When McSwane was finished, Army recruiters in Golden had been caught encouraging him to manufacture a fake high school diploma and accompanying him to a head shop to buy him a drug detox kit.

U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., called on the Army secretary to launch an investigation. The Army subsequently suspended McSwane’s recruiters and began a probe, which is still ongoing.

Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the Army recruiting command in Fort Knox, Ky., said that although the one-day recruitment freeze at 1,700 offices is partly routine, it is largely the result of recent allegations of impropriety.

“We’re going to reassess how Army values play into our jobs. We’re going to address the kind of improprieties that we’ve seen. There’s no avoiding the issue,” he said.

Among the Army’s concerns are those uncovered by the 17-year-old Arvada West High School honors student with a full class schedule and after-school job.

McSwane’s story nearly died before it ever got off the ground.

“I told him not to do it,” said his mother, Shelly Hansen. “I thought he might get arrested.”

Her son, who had read about military enlistment challenges and had seen recruiters working the grounds of Arvada West, wanted to know “just how far will Army recruiters go to get one more.”

McSwane had been inspired by the 1961 book Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, who darkened his skin and documented what it was like to live as a black man in the segregated South.

But McSwane had another motivation when he began his investigation in January.

“I wanted to do something cool, go undercover and do something unusual,” he said this week.

The premise was simple: McSwane would try to join the Army as a high school dropout with an insatiable fondness for marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms. No matter how stoned and stupid McSwane acted, a pair of recruiters wouldn’t wouldn’t let him go.

McSwane insisted to the recruiters that he couldn’t lick his drug habit, but one recruiter told him to take some “stuff” that would “clean you out.” It turned out to be a detoxification kit the recruiter said had worked with other applicants. McSwane said the recruiter even offered to pay half the cost of the kit.

McSwane’s claim of being a dropout didn’t discourage his recruiters either. He was encouraged to take a high school equivalency diploma exam, which McSwane deliberately failed. That’s when he said one recruiter introduced him to the “home-school option.”

McSwane was told to order a phony diploma and transcripts from an online diploma mill.

“It can be like Faith Hill Baptist School or something – whatever you choose,” one of the recruiters can be heard saying in a taped phone call.

Several days and $200 later, McSwane became a proud graduate of Faith Hill Baptist High School in Longmont.

“I ordered my four years of high school sweat with a few clicks,” he later wrote.

But McSwane knew that if his story was going to hold up, he would need proof. So he enlisted his sister, Victoria, to pretend that she was keeping a photo album of her big brother’s military accomplishments. She took pictures of McSwane shaking hands with his recruiters.

McSwane convinced a high school friend to operate a video camera across the street from a head shop while one of the recruiters drove him to the store to buy a drug detox kit. He even got his mother to covertly slip him some cash during the episode after the head shop refused to accept her credit card.

Since McSwane didn’t wear a wire on most of his visits to the recruiting office, he parlayed his natural forgetfulness as a supposed druggie into an opportunity to tape his recruiters’ during phone calls.

“I’m a drug addict, so I acted confused and asked him to explain things over again,” he said.

McSwane stopped reporting the story in March when one of the recruiters asked him to strip down for a weigh-in and sign several legally binding documents.

McSwane’s article ran in the March 17 issue of The Westwind.

McSwane’s next move was to make certain his story didn’t languish on an inside page of his school paper. He shopped it out to local and national media outlets. Only CBS 4 News called back.

The station broadcast its report, “How Far Will the Army Go?,” on April 28 and played parts of McSwane’s audio and videotapes.

The high school senior was soon up to his ears in media requests.

Ultimately, McSwane wants more than just media attention. He thinks recruiters, including the two he exposed, are overwhelmed by pressure to make monthly quotas.

“I feel bad they’re taking the fall. It’s their bosses who are telling them to do this. The job is impossible when you have a war going on,” he said.

McSwane graduates Thursday and will attend Colorado State University in Fort Collins this fall. His planned major: journalism.

For now, though, McSwane has things other than exposes on his mind.

“I’m still in high school. I want to still have some fun,” he said.