An indigenous man was killed and two were wounded last week in the latest clash between sedentary communities and the isolated Mashco Piro tribe as they emerge more frequently from their jungle enclaves, the government said. The nomadic Mashco Piro turned their bows and arrows on members of the Nahua tribe who had followed their footprints into the wilderness near their town Santa Rosa de Serjali in the region of Ucayali, said Deputy Culture Minister Alfredo Luna.
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Some of the Nahua were carrying weapons and a Nahua man was accidentally shot dead in the encounter, the ministry said in a statement on Thursday. Two members of the Nahua community were wounded by arrows.
The Mashco Piro have largely shunned contact with outsiders for at least 100 years as they live off of hunting and foraging in a vast expanse of rainforest in Peru and Brazil.
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Believed to be descendants of farmers who fled abuse by white plantation owners during the Amazonian rubber boom in the late 1800s, the Mashco Piro have increasingly ventured outside of their safe havens in recent years.
Illegal logging, drug trafficking and wildcat gold mining may be forcing the Mashco Piro from some lands, while climate change may be disrupting where they traditionally find food and water, Luna said.
Peru broke with its longstanding policy of avoiding contact with isolated tribes last year to communicate with a group of Mashco Piro that had repeatedly appeared at the edge of settled indigenous towns in recent years, killing at least two locals in bow and arrow attacks.
Luna said last week’s deadly clash was the first inside a reserve set up for the Nahua, Indians who had lived in isolation up until the 1980s when illegal loggers captured a group of them and spread disease among their members that killed scores.
Peru is home to about a dozen isolated tribes whose members have immune systems with little resistance to common illnesses.
The Mashco Piro may also be drawn to settled areas where they can seize machetes, cooking pots and crops that make their lives in the wilderness easier.
Luna said studies indicate that there may be between 1,000 to 4,000 members of the Mashco Piro in the Amazon.