Murdered indigenous lawyer Bruno Pereira was buried in his home state of Pernambuco in Brazil after a small ceremony attended by family members and local tribesmen.
On Friday, dozens of Indigenous people from the Xukuru tribe marched around his coffin chanting farewell rituals to the beat of their percussion instruments.
Topless and wearing headdresses made of palm leaves, they greeted a man who had spent much of his life working with isolated communities in remote parts of the Amazon rainforest.
“We will continue our fight without them,” said one of the tribe’s leaders in a brief speech in front of the coffin and alongside Pereira’s wife, Beatriz Matos.
Pereira’s coffin was draped in flags of Pernambuco and its football team, Sport Recife.
The 41-year-old father of three died on June 5 when he and British journalist Dom Phillips were shot dead on the Itaquaí River in the far west of Brazil.
Phillips was writing a book on sustainable development in the Amazon and the two men were returning from a reporting trip when local fishermen allegedly attacked their boat. Shots were exchanged and Pereira was hit three times, and Phillips once.
Three men are in custody and others are wanted by police for allegedly helping dispose of the bodies.
Although authorities initially said the killers acted alone, the investigating officer is now backtracking on that assumption. “It is possible that there is an intellectual author behind all this,” said Eduardo Fonte. “The investigation is ongoing. We are looking into everything and we will leave nothing to chance. We will find out what happened and what did not happen.
Loggers, prospectors, ranchers and drug traffickers are all encroaching on indigenous lands in the remote Javari Valley, according to local groups, and hunters and fishermen are known to catch protected species of animals and fish . Locals say organized crime groups active in the area may have been involved in the killings.
Pereira worked with an indigenous organization called Univaja. He helped the tribesmen who lived in the Javari Valley to mark out their lands and protect them from invaders.
Pereira had previously worked with Funai, the Brazilian government’s indigenous foundation. He was removed from his post in 2019 after successfully carrying out an operation to destroy illegal mining on indigenous lands.
He found a new home working with NGOs in the Javari Valley, monitoring isolated Indian tribes who live in one of Brazil’s most remote corners.
“Today the land where he was born welcomes him, his body finds clay, the roots of plants, water and the heat of the ground”, the Observatory for the human rights of isolated and recently contacted indigenous peoples ( OPI), one such NGO, said in a statement.
Phillips, a long-time Guardian contributor, is to be buried in Niteroi, near Rio de Janeiro, on Sunday. The 57-year-old journalist is to be buried in a plot belonging to his wife’s family.