|Regions with significant populations|
|Brazil ( Rondônia)|
|traditional tribal religion|
The Akuntsu people (also known as Akunt'su or Akunsu) are an indigenous people of Rondônia, Brazil. Their land is part of the Rio Omerê Indigenous Territory, a small reserve which is also inhabited by a group of Kanoê. The Akuntsu were victims of a massacre perpetrated by Brazilian cattle ranchers in the 1980s and currently number just five individuals.
The Akuntsu are primarily hunter-gatherers, but supplement their diet with some swidden agriculture. Game is particularly abundant in their reserve because it acts as a refuge for animals whose habitats have been destroyed by deforestation in the surrounding area. The Akuntsu have a typical material culture for the region and practice various shamanic rituals. The Akuntsu language is spoken only by members of the tribe and not fully understood by any outsider. It belongs to the Tuparí language family.
The Akuntsu are considered an "isolated tribe" by the Brazilian government, having only recently come into contact with global state societies. They were not officially contacted by FUNAI until 1995. The word Akuntsu is an exonym applied to the tribe by the Kanoê, who were contacted shortly before the Akuntsu, meaning roughly "other Indians". The nearby Tupari are also recorded as knowing of a group called the 'Akontsu' or 'Wakontsón' whom they had never visited. In both cases, the Akuntsu had a reputation for being "dangerous" and seemingly had little contact with neighbouring indigenous peoples.
Before official contact, however, the Akuntsu experienced violent confrontations with white colonists, loggers and cattle ranchers that began entering their land in the 1970s following the construction of a highway. The seven remaining members encountered in 1995 reported an attack by armed cattle ranchers some time around 1990 in which the majority of the tribe was killed. Several of the survivors possessed scars and bullets lodged in their body when contacted and FUNAI was able to discover the site of the massacre—the Akuntsus' former village—which had been bulldozed in an attempt to cover up the evidence. At least fifteen were killed in this attack, which is thought to have been motivated by the knowledge that if the Akuntsu were officially contacted the forest would be declared an indigenous reserve and closed off to logging and cattle ranching.
A FUNAI team had been attempting to make contact with isolated indigenous groups in Corumbiara since 1985, following reports made the previous year. Farmers in the area, however, consistently denied the presence of any indigenous people in the area and FUNAI issued the opinion that if uncontacted tribes had been there, they had since moved on. Subsequently in December 1986 the state interdiction on the area that had been put in place for FUNAI to conduct its search was lifted and farmers, cattle ranchers and loggers were able to resume legal expansion into the forest. The leader of the FUNAI team, however, continued searching and in 1995 encountered the Kanoê who in turn informed them of the Akuntsu. When an expedition finally made official contact with the Akuntsu in October of that year the tribe numbered seven: two adult men, three women and two young girls. The 26,000 hectare Igarapé Omerê Indigenous Territory was created for the Akuntsu and Kanoê, but the area of protected forest is still threatened by loggers and cattle ranchers which FUNAI have been unable to eject. In January 2000 the youngest girl died when a tree fell on her father's house during a storm. In October 2009 the oldest member of the group, Ururú, died, leaving the tribe with a population of just five.
It is considered unlikely that the Akuntsu language or culture will survive following the deaths of the tribe's remaining members. For this reason several observers have described the tribe as the victims of genocide. The neighbouring Kanoê have been similarly reduced in number through contact with settlers, as were the people of a man recently encountered living alone in the Igarapé Omerê reserve who is apparently the sole survivor of his tribe.
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