Rieli Franciscato, an expert on Amazon tribes, was shot dead with an arrow while approaching an indigenous tribe in a remote area of Brazil. The 56-year-old, who was the head of a program to protect indigenous tribes, died Wednesday, according to a statement from the Brazilian government's indigenous affairs office, FUNAI (the National Indian Foundation), where Franciscato worked.
Witnesses reportedly said Franciscato was shot above his heart while monitoring the Cautario River isolated group that had been making recent appearances. Franciscato was reportedly accompanied by a photojournalist, police patrol and the former head of FUNAI, which witnesses say could have prompted the attack.
The team ran for cover when the arrows began flying, but Franciscato was hit, according to reports. He was taken to a hospital nearby but couldn't be saved. The Cautario River tribe had been previously classified as peaceful.
Sarah Shenker, a senior researcher of indigenous tribes, called Franciscato’s death tragic.
“Rieli worked tirelessly, whatever was thrown at him, to protect the forests of #UncontactedTribes. He dedicated his life to it, robust on the front line of the fight to #StopBrazilsGenocide. His death is a tragic and unmeasurable loss for us all,” she wrote on Twitter.
Indigenous tribes in Brazil are currently under threat by individuals stealing land illegally mining who have supported President Jair Bolsonaro’s efforts to develop the Amazon and reduce indigenous reservations.