Brazilian government lawyers and prosecutors (Ministério Público Federal) (MPF) are investigating the whereabouts of blood samples taken from Brazilian Ianomami Indians in the 1960s and 1970s.
"At the time the blood samples were taken there was no information about what was to be done with them. The problem is that in the Ianomani culture, the dead are cremated and if there is any blood left it must be thrown in the river. The Ianomani believe that blood survives a person and must be destroyed ritually," explains Mauricio Fabretti, a federal prosecutor.
Letters have been sent to universities and research centers that are believed or known to have Ianomani blood samples. According to Fabretti, most of them are American.
"We will initially attempt to have the samples returned through friendly negotiations. If that does not work we may have to operate through an American law firm," explained Fabretti.
The prosecutor added that Brazilian prosecutors are also investigating whether or not the samples were taken with authorization from the Indian Protection Foundation, the Ministry of Health or the Indians themselves.