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Photo: Bruno Kelly / Reuters
Brazil has lost permanent parts of its indigenous history during COVID-19. Photo: Bruno Kelly/Reuters

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to wipe out the heritage of many indigenous tribes in Brazil

Some 970 indigenous Brazilians have died since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. Some were the last members of ethnic groups whose legacy has been lost. 

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In the Taruma Park cemetery in Manaus, Amazonas state, the crosses on the graves are soul-crushing. 

All the more so because many of these deaths were unexpected due to the COVID pandemic and many indigenous tribe members were barely able to pass on their cultural legacy to heirs, and it is as if they have died twice or three times. 

For this ancestral knowledge treasured by Brazil's indigenous tribes, some of which were already lost, has been lost forever with its last guardians. 

According to a report by APIB, Brazil's largest indigenous association, some 970 indigenous Brazilians have died since the COVID-19 pandemic began last March.

About 220 of them were aged 60 or older, but the figure could be higher because APIB was unable to record the age of most of the victims, Reuters reported.

"Our elders are guardians of traditions, custodians of wisdom, counselors, and possessors of unique spiritual knowledge," said Nara Baré, coordinator of COIAB, the largest umbrella group for Brazil's Amazonian indigenous tribes. "Watching them leave is, in a way, another aspect of the destruction of our people."

These deaths represent a huge cultural loss not only for indigenous communities but for the world, as much of the ancestral knowledge is passed down from generation to generation. 

APIB also indicated that three indigenous communities in Brazil particularly affected by the pandemic were the Terena, Kokama and Xavante. 

Each lost more than 50 members to COVID-19.

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