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AMERICAS NATIONAL

Another American Missionary Enters Uncontacted Tribal Land

An uncontacted tribe in Brazil looks up towards the sky.
An uncontacted tribe in Brazil. (Photo via Agência de Notícias do Acre: Gleilson Miranda / Governo do Acre)

Only two months after an American missionary was killed by a tribe in India he was attempting to contact, another missionary is being investigated for crossing into tribal land.

A missionary with the Greene Baptist Church in Maine, Steve Campbell, is being investigated in Brazil after setting foot on the territory of one of Brazil’s uncontacted tribes, as Survival International reported. Campbell’s attempt at contact comes only two months after a missionary died in India while attempting to contact a remote tribe.

Brazil’s Indigenous Affairs Department (FUNAI) is questioning Campbell over his expedition to convert the uncontacted tribes to Christianity, with many speculating he might face charges of genocide.

Campbell reportedly visited the Hi-Merima tribe with the help of a local guide. FUNAI knew of the existence of these tribes and had set up outposts to monitor their activities without setting foot on their territory. The local guide, initially a member of a FUNAI expedition, took Campbell to the uncontacted tribe because he was in the area.

The danger and severity of attempting to contact an uncontacted tribe has become even more serious since another uncontacted tribe, the Sentinelese, killed a Christian missionary, John Allen Chau, two months ago in India.

During his questioning Campbell reportedly said he was instructing the Jamamadi tribe, a neighbor with the Hi-Merima Indians, how to use GPS. He said there was no way to reach the Jamamadi tribe without passing through the territory of the Hi-Merima.

The Danger of American Missionaries in Uncontacted Tribal Areas

There are estimated to be at least 100 groups of uncontacted people in Brazil, per data from FUNAI. The tribes have expressed they do not want contact with outsiders. They have shot arrows at outsiders and planes flying overhead and hidden deep in the forest to avoid anyone approaching.

The tribes are also vulnerable to diseases from outsiders, such as measles and flu. The Matis tribe lost half of its population following contact, an occurrence the tribal rights group Survival International said is not unusual.

Survival International also reports that the tribes have been deliberately hunted down and their homes destroyed by loggers and ranchers.

Survival International warns that with President Jair Bolsonaro’s appointment of Damares Alves, an evangelist, as the new minister in charge of indigenous affairs more Christian missionaries may be emboldened to introduce the uncontacted tribes to their religious beliefs.

Survival International director, Stephen Corry, condemns the attempts of missionaries to reach or convert the endangered tribes. He said it is not safe for the Christian workers, and it is not safe for the indigenous tribes.

“Fundamentalist Christian American missionaries must be stopped from this primitive urge to contact previously uncontacted tribes,” Corry said. “It may lead to the martyrdom they seek, but it always ends up killing tribespeople.”

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