Conservation International Statement on Passing of Chief Aritana, Amazon and Indigenous Peoples’ Advocate

August 6, 2020

Arlington, Va. (August 6, 2020) – Conservation International CEO Dr. M. Sanjayan issued the following statement on the passing of Indigenous rights’ advocate Chief Aritana Yawalapiti, who succumbed to COVID-19 on August 5, 2020.

“It is with deep regret that I offer my condolences and support to the family of Chief Aritana Yawalapiti and to the Alto Xingu people of Brazil.  

“Chief Aritana will be remembered by Conservation International and all of those whose lives he touched as a global leader and a fierce protector of the Amazon and its peoples. He played an integral role in establishing the Xingu National Park, the first protected Indigenous area in the Amazon and the home of 16 Indigenous tribes. His unwavering commitment to the rights of Indigenous peoples and his passion for protecting the forest will live on.

“The coronavirus pandemic has impacted hundreds of thousands of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon region, killing over twenty thousand. Having taken a 9-hour journey from his village home to a Goiânia hospital, Chief Aritana’s passing is a stark reminder of the challenges faced by Indigenous communities as COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe. Remote locations, inadequate access to health facilities and lack of access to modern sanitation make Indigenous peoples exceptionally vulnerable to the effects of the virus. Conservation International remains committed to working alongside our partners to support those affected and to keep Indigenous peoples and their territories safe.

“Chief Aritana’s memory will serve as a shining example of the important role Indigenous groups play in keeping our planet healthy. With thousands of years living close to our forests, seas and freshwater, Indigenous peoples are the world’s most important stewards of nature. The respect and knowledge that they bring to conservation work is an example to us all.”

As of August 3, 2020, there are an estimated 769,332 confirmed cases among the indigenous people in the Amazon region and 21,315 deaths. In Brazil, there are 589,394 cases and 16,555 deaths, including the loss of Chief Aritana. Conservation International stands in solidarity with Indigenous peoples during this crisis and continues to support Indigenous-led efforts to steward their lands, waters and natural resources.

About Conservation International

Conservation International works to protect the critical benefits that nature provides to people. Through science, partnerships and fieldwork, Conservation International is driving innovation and investments in nature-based solutions to the climate crisis, supporting protections for critical habitats, and fostering economic development that is grounded in the conservation of nature. We work in 30 countries around the world, empowering societies at all levels to create a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet. Follow Conservation International's work on Conservation NewsFacebook, TwitterInstagram and YouTube.