The murdered Indigenous advocate Bruno Pereira has been buried in his home state of Pernambuco in Brazil after a small ceremony attended by family members and local tribes.
Dozens of Indigenous people from the Xukuru tribe paraded around his coffin chanting farewell rituals to the beat of their percussion instruments on Friday.
Topless and wearing headdresses made of palm fronds, they saluted 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,” one of the tribe’s leaders said in a short speech in front of the coffin and alongside Pereira’s wife, Beatriz Matos.
Pereira’s coffin was draped with flags of Pernambuco and his football team, Sport Recife.
The 41-year-old father of three died on 5 June when he and the British journalist Dom Phillips were shot deadon the Itaquaí River in the far west of Brazil.
Phillips was writing a book about sustainable development in the Amazon and the two men were returning from a reporting trip when local fishers allegedly attacked their boat. Shots were exchanged and Pereira was hit three times, and Phillips once.
Three men are in custody and more are wanted by the police for allegedly helping to dispose of the bodies.
Although authorities initially said the killers acted alone, the officer in charge of the inquiry is now rolling back that hypothesis. “It’s possible that there is an intellectual author behind this,” said Eduardo Fonte. “The investigation is ongoing. We are looking at everything and we won’t leave any stone unturned. We’ll find out what happened, and what didn’t happen.”
Loggers, prospectors, ranchers and drug traffickers are all encroaching on Indigenous land in the remote Javari Valley, local groups say, and hunters and fishers are known to catch protected species of animal and fish. The locals claim organized crime groups active in the area could have been involved in the killings.
Pereira was working with an Indigenous organization called Univaja. He helped tribespeople who lived in the Javari Valley to outline their land and protect it from invaders.
Pereira had previously worked with Funai, the Brazilian government’s Indigenous foundation. He was removed from his post in 2019 after leading a successful operation to destroy an illegal mining operation on Indigenous land.
He found a new home working with NGOs in the Javari Valley, monitoring the isolated Indian tribes who live in one of Brazil’s most farflung corners.
“Today the land where he was born receives him, his body re-encounters the clay, the roots of the plants, the water and the warmth of the soil,” the Observatory for the Human Rights of Isolated and Recent Contact Indigenous Peoples (OPI ), one of those NGOs, said in a statement.
Phillips, a longtime contributor to the Guardian, is to be buried on Sunday in Niteroi, near Rio de Janeiro. The 57-year-old journalist is to be buried in a plot belonging to his wife’s family.