RECIFE, BRAZIL - Bruno Pereira, the Brazilian Indigenous expert killed in the Amazon with British journalist Dom Phillips, was given a moving sendoff Friday by members of one of the tribes he had spent his life and work defending.
Members of the Xukuru chanted funeral hymns and mourned at a solemn ceremony near Recife, where Pereira was born, in the northeastern Pernambuco state.
A photograph of 41-year-old Pereira was perched on his coffin, also draped with the flag of his favorite football team, Sport Recife.
'It is a great loss not only for us but for all of Brazil, for those who fight to defend Mother Nature, which is to defend life,' chief Marcos Xukuru told AFP.
Pereira and veteran correspondent Phillips, 57, went missing on June 5 in a remote part of the rainforest rife with illegal mining, fishing and logging, as well as drug trafficking.
Philips was the author of dozens of articles on the Amazon and a longtime contributor to The Guardian newspaper and other major news organizations.
He was traveling to the Javari Valley as part of research for a book with Pereira as his guide, when they were ambushed.
Police say the men were shot. Indigenous groups say it was retaliation for exposing illegal fishers in the region.
Pereira, an expert at Brazil's Indigenous affairs agency FUNAI, had received multiple threats from criminals with their eye on isolated Indigenous resources.
The men's bodies were handed over to their families on Thursday.
'Today, the land where he was born welcomes him. His body finds the clay, the roots of plants, the water and the heat of the soil,' the Observatory for Human Rights of Isolated Indigenous Peoples, with whom Pereira had worked, said in a statement.
'This crime is the tip of the iceberg of the critical situation in Brazil today, caused by the way the state treats Indigenous issues,' Vania Fialho, a 56-year-old anthropologist who attended the wake, told AFP.
Pereira was married and had three children.
His body was to be cremated after Friday's ceremony, while Phillips' family will hold a wake and cremation on Sunday in Niteroi, near Rio de Janeiro.
Four people have been arrested for the crime to date.