Last surviving male leader of Amazonian Juma tribe dies of coronavirus

‘We have been witnessing the end of indigenous peoples’: Last surviving male leader of Amazonian Juma tribe dies of coronavirus leaving three daughters and ending his lineage

  • Aruká Juma, of the Juma tribe, died due to complications caused by Covid-19
  • He died on February 17 in a Brazilian hospital in Pôrto Velho, miles from his home
  • Juma is survived by four female tribe members – three women and a girl
  • Therefore, the male lineage of the tribe can no longer be passed down further
  • An estimated 15,000 people were part of the Juma tribe in the 18th century 
  • Brazil has the world’s second highest per-capital Covid death toll which many blame on the country’s populist president Jair Bolsonaro

The last surviving male member of an indigenous Amazonian tribe in Brazil has died from coronavirus, leaving just four female members behind and ending his lineage.

Aruká Juma, of the Juma tribe, died due to complications caused by Covid-19 on February 17 in a Brazilian hospital in Pôrto Velho, the capital of state of Rondônia. 

Juma was the last head of his tribe who live deep in the Amazon rainforest, and died after travelling for two hours on a boat followed by a 75 mile drive to the hospital.

The coronavirus crisis has hit the indigenous people who live in the Amazon disproportionately after – it is believed – the disease was spread by people entering their territory to carry out illegal activities such as mining and logging.

The tribe’s leader is believed to have been aged between 85 and 90, according to The Independent, and is survived by three daughters – all of whom married into a different tribe and therefore will be unable to carry on his lineage. 

‘We have been witnessing the end of indigenous peoples, like, literally the last members of certain indigenous communities are dying and there are no successors,’ Raphaela Lopes, a lawyer with Justiça Global, told NBC. 

There have been 50,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among indigenous communities, and 900 deaths – according to the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, which tracks and advocates for the country’s Indigenous movement. 

The last surviving male member of an indigenous Amazonian tribe in Brazil has died from coronavirus, leaving just four female members behind, meaning the male lineage of the tribe can no longer be passed down. Pictured: An indigenous chief receives a dose of a coronavirus vaccine (file photo)

Those who have died among the indigenous communities from coronavirus include people working in healthcare, politics and education according to NBC News, as well as chiefs and leaders of tribes.

An estimated 15,000 people were in the Juma tribe in the 18th century when their existence was first recorded, but numbers have been driven down to the four remaining female members – three women and a girl – due to disease and massacres. 

By 1934, around 100 members of the tribe remained, but a massacre 30 years later left just six members of the tribe alive, including Mr Juma and his brother-in-law, who himself died in 1999 leaving Mr Juma as the final surviving male member.

‘In the mid-60s, the Juma people were almost extinct due to the massacres that other relatives suffered in the previous decades by rubber tappers, loggers and fishermen in the territory, which is on the banks of the Assuã River, in Canutama,’ the Federal Prosecutor’s Office of Rondônia said in a statement. 

‘Aruká was one of the survivors of his ethnicity. The indigenous man leaves three daughters, the last people of the Juma ethnic group: Mandeí Juma, Maitá Juma and Boreha Juma.’ 

Brazil has the world’s second highest per-capital Covid death toll which many blame on the country’s populist president Jair Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro has frequently played down the threat of the virus, spoken out against vaccines, opposed lockdown measures used in other countries, and compared the pandemic to ‘the sniffles’. Only recently has he changed his tune. 

COVID-19 has killed more than 282,000 people in Brazil and more than 11.6 million have been diagnosed with the respiratory disease, according to health ministry data. Only the United States has reported more deaths and cases. 

Bolsonaro announced the appointment of his fourth health minister – cardiologist Dr Marcelo Queiroga – during the pandemic.

A general view of an Indigenous tribe village is seen, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease. With their use of natural remedies instead of modern medicines and lack of immunity against pathogens due to living in isolated communities, indigenous people are especially vulnerable to disease

A report by The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, and a group called Justiça Global, pointed towards a ‘chronic underinvestment’ in Brazil’s public health system, leading to the country’s dire pandemic situation. 

With their use of natural remedies instead of modern medicines and lack of immunity against pathogens due to living in isolated communities, indigenous people are especially vulnerable to disease. 

Advocacy groups have argued on behalf of indigenous people that Bolsonaro’s continued denial of Covid-19 and lack of policy to tackle the virus, as well as geographical challenges, has put tribes under serious threat to their survival. 

A statement, published by the Coordination of Indigenous Organisations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab), the Observatory of Human Rights of Isolated and Recent Contact Indigenous Peoples (OPI), and APIB, said: ‘Coiab and Apib warned that indigenous people of recent contact were at extreme risk. 

‘The last surviving man of the Juma people is dead,’ The Independent reported the statement as saying.

‘Again, the Brazillian government proved to be criminally silent and incompetent. The government murdered Aruká. Just as [it] murdered his ancestors, it is a devastating and irreparable indigenous loss.’

Advocacy groups have argued on behalf of indigenous people that President Jair Bolsonaro’s (pictured) continued denial of Covid-19 and lack of policy to tackle the virus, as well as geographical challenges, has put tribes under serious threat to their survival

A new opinion poll showed Brazilians’ disapproval of President Bolsonaro’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic hit a record high.

The Datafolha poll published by the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper late on Tuesday showed 54% of respondents regard Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis as bad or very bad.

The poll of 2,023 people, carried out this week, showed a further decline in confidence in Bolsonaro over the pandemic since the previous Datafolha poll on Jan. 20-21, when 48 percent of respondents expressed disapproval. 

Bolsonaro initially sought to portray COVID-19 as a ‘little flu’ after the first case was registered in February 2020 and the slowness of Brazil’s vaccination campaign among a population of more than 212 million has severely strained hospitals.

Fiocruz, the Rio de Janeiro-based biomedical center that is manufacturing the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Brazil, said on Tuesday Brazil faced its worst sanitary crisis on record. 

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