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Story Publication logo September 6, 2023

Not Even Death Is Silent (Portuguese)

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This story excerpt was translated from Portuguese. To read the original story in full, visit Carta Capital. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website. Our website is available in EnglishSpanishbahasa IndonesiaFrench, and Portuguese.


Chief Biraci Brasil Nixiwaka did not have the opportunity to talk to journalist Dom Phillips. Image by Felipe Milanez. Brazil, 2023.

A conversation with the chief Biraci Nixiwaka, whom the English journalist Dom Phillips wanted to visit before Phillips was murdered.


English journalist Dom Phillips was planning to visit Biraci Brasil Nixiwaka, a Yawanawa chief, in Acre. It was to be the last interview for his book How to Save the Amazon, which was interrupted by his brutal murder. It's not just one more talk with indigenous people in the forest or one more interview with an indigenous leader. The Yawanawa, like the Ashaninka, represented a hope for the future of the Amazon, in the reporter's view. Dom had sought me out to mediate contact with Biraci, a friend of many years and with whom I am developing an extensive research project about his political activities in the 1980s, when he led the indigenous movement in Acre and organized his people to expel the rubber tappers from the Paranacre company and the religious from the New Tribes of Brazil mission. The Yawanawa's struggle culminated in the first demarcation in Acre and Dom wanted to talk about it in the book.

I did the midfield work and soon the two of them were exchanging messages and arranged to meet in the village. The trip ended up being postponed at the chief's request, as Nixiwaka needed to support a diet, as they call spiritual seclusion, for his wife and shaman Putanny. The journalist changed his itinerary to adapt to the demand: Before heading to Acre, he went into the Javari Valley in the company of indigenist Bruno Pereira. The rest is tragedy.


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Journalist Dom Phillips completed a new book. Image by @domphillips/Twitter.

The village in Acre, center of resistance, and the Gregório River, source of life. Image by Felipe Milanez. Brazil, 2023.