RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A video depicting Amazon Indians burying children alive is “faked” and is an incitement to racial hatred made by U.S. evangelical missionaries, a group campaigning for tribal rights said on Thursday.
The short video, “Hakani,” has been watched more than 350,000 times on the YouTube video-sharing website.
It depicts scenes, apparently reenactments, of Indians in an isolated forest village digging graves and burying several live children in them. The “Hakani” campaign also has a website and a group on networking site Facebook with more than 13,000 members.
London-based Survival International said in a statement the film is “faked, that the earth covering the children’s faces is actually chocolate cake, and that the film’s claim that infanticide among Brazilian Indians is widespread is false.”
“People are being taught to hate Indians, even wish them dead,” said Survival’s director, Stephen Corry.
Survival said the video was made by the son of the founder of an American missionary organization called Youth with a Mission, which has a branch in Brazil known as Jocum.
Brazil’s Indian affairs department has tried to bar the film, which it says was financed by Jocum, saying it denigrates the image of the more than 220 ethnicities that live in Brazil.
Youth with a Mission is an interdenominational Christian group based in Hawaii which focuses on involving young people in evangelism in 149 countries, its website says.
Officials from the group were not immediately available for comment. Andy Zimmermann, executive assistant to the group’s president, John Dawson, said in an email that Dawson was traveling and that “it is unlikely he would comment on these baseless allegations.”
Neither the video, the “Hakani” campaign website nor the Facebook group include any mention of the missionary group or any contact details. Corry said the group was trying to play down its role in the film.
The website says the girl “Hakani” was rescued from her tribe, and was one of what it says are hundreds of children targeted for death each year among Brazil’s tribes.
It says the video is a “powerful docudrama” and urges people to donate money and write letters in support of a proposed Brazilian law, known as Muwaji’s Law, which would abolish infanticide by indigenous groups.
Survival says the law, by requiring Brazilians to report to authorities anything seen as a “harmful traditional” practice, would foster “witch hunts” against indigenous people.
Infanticide is practiced by some tribes in the Amazon region, sometimes on disabled children, but Survival and Funai say it is rare and becoming rarer as health access improves.
“I think the missionaries are stirring up hatred against the Indians, who they profess to be concerned about,” said Fiona Watson, a Brazil campaigner for Survival.
“The infanticide is not being explained, it’s being taken out of context. They have now suddenly become baby-killers.”