Opi expresses sorrow and indignation at the murder of firefighter Sidiney de Oliveira Silva in Tocantins

Brigadista combate incêndio na Ilha do Bananal em 2021.
Firefighter combats fire in Bananal Island in 2021. Photo: Ibama

Published by Opi


Experienced in firefighting, the environmentalist helped protect the forests of Bananal Island, where isolated Avá Canoeiro indigenous people live.

Opi - the Observatory of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples - would like to express solidarity with the family and friends of Sidiney de Oliveira Silva, known as Nenê, an environmentalist who worked in Tocantins state and was shot dead outside his sister's house on June 15. He worked at the National Centre for the Prevention and Control of Forest Fires (Prevfogo) and was the president of the Firefighters Union of the Federal Northeastern Brigade at Brazil's Environment Agency (Ibama). 

Sidiney, who was a resident of Bananal Island, had a leading role in protecting the region's forests and took part in an expedition where isolated Avá Canoeiro indigenous people who live in the area known as Mata do Mamão, are located. Their presence was confirmed by local people and it is the responsibility of the Brazilian state to protect them. According to the press, he had been threatened by ranchers for taking action against forest fires and invasions on the island. In a video published by Ibama last year, Sidiney can be seen coordinating the rescue of pirarucus* trapped in puddles after forest fires. 

In a statement, Ibama lamented the crime and expressed solidarity with the family and friends of Sidiney, who had been selected to work in firefighting during this year's (2024) upcoming dry season. He was murdered before signing the contract. The crime is being investigated by Tocantins' Civil Police, who have so far failed to provide answers or locate any suspects. The National Union of Environmental Civil Servants (Ascema) announced in an interview with TV Brasil that it will ask the Federal Police to join the investigation. 

Bananal Island is the largest river island in the world, with an area of more than 20,000 km², and is inhabited by the Karajá, Javaé, Avá-Canoeiro and Tapirapé indigenous peoples. In recent years it has been invaded by cattle ranching and the forest areas are currently surrounded and under pressure by dozens of pastures and fences. The head of cattle in the region is estimated at 100,000. The situation directly threatens the isolated indigenous people and the forests and may now have motivated the barbaric crime that victimised Sidiney Oliveira da Silva, in yet another attack against defenders of the environment and the isolated indigenous people. 

Between 2020 and 2023 several wildfires occurred in the Mata do Mamão, where the isolated live. The fires are caused by the burning of areas for pasture in the surroundings and this is what Sidiney Oliveira was fighting against. In addition to the danger of genocide for the isolated people, the advance of cattle ranching threatens a region that is considered an ecological sanctuary, as it is a flooded savannah in a transition zone between the Amazon, Cerrado and Pantanal biomes, with the presence of endemic species – they only exist there. A place of unique socio-biodiversity, Bananal Island has been devastated by cattle.

* Pirarucu – Large freshwater fish, native to the Amazon river basin.

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