Attack against Ka’apor leadership completes one week without response from authorities

CIMI has already counted the death of six members of the Ka'apor people, killed because of their intensive efforts against the invasion and exploitation of their protected territories. (Isadora Brant/Reproduction)

Iury Lima – Cenarium Magazine

VILHENA (RO) – The ambush perpetrated against a Ka’apor people’s leadership, in the municipality of Santa Luzia do Paruá (MA), completes one week this Saturday, 29th, but there is still no response from the Maranhão state government, nor from the federal government, through the National Foundation of the Indian (FUNAI). However, all of them have been activated by the ethnic group and by civil society organizations that work with the protection of traditional peoples, such as the Indigenous Missionary Council (Cimi), which follows the case and provides assistance to the indigenous people threatened by the war against loggers and other invaders.

“Funai is aware of the problem, because the indigenous people have informed the agency, but nothing has been done so far (…) In an official way, none of the agencies has taken a position. An occurrence report was filed with the Federal Police about these threats. The Public Prosecutor’s Office (of the state of Maranhão) has also been called to demand and monitor this situation”, said Gilderlan Rodrigues, Cimi’s regional coordinator, in an exclusive interview to CENARIUM MAGAZINE.

Regional Coordinator of the Indigenous Missionary Council in Maranhão guarantees, in an interview to CENARIUM MAGAZINE, that despite being called, state and federal authorities have not manifested (Iury Lima/Cenarium)

“This is what we have been demanding from the State Government of Maranhão. Of course, we know that the indigenous territories are a federal responsibility, but there is the region surrounding the communities, which falls under the responsibility of the state. The State could carry out surveillance, in these locations, against the loggers that are, mainly, close to the Indigenous Lands; it should shut down the sawmills and prevent the flow of (loaded) trucks that travel freely, supported by the lack of action”, Rodrigues also said.

The ambush

Treated by Cimi as an “attempted murder”, the result of constant death threats to the Ka’apor Indians who fight for the protection of their territories, the trap that almost killed another Ka’apor leader occurred last Saturday, 22 October.

A car containing the indigenous leader, whose identity was not revealed, was surrounded by four other vehicles. He and the other occupants took shelter in a restaurant and only returned to the traditional community with an escort by the Maranhão Secretary of Public Security (SSP/MA), who only showed up because other leaders went to the city to provide support and activated the folder, waiting with the victims of the attack outside a police station, where they could not get police assistance.

For the traditional communities, the attack was a response to the 2nd Governance and Self-Defense Meeting, held between January 18 and 20, where the internal organization and ethnographic mapping of the Alto Turiaçu territory was discussed. The territory covers more than 530,000 hectares and includes municipalities from Maranhão to the border with Pará. Also, in the event, another territorial protection area was created, the 11th on the list of regions that work as a kind of “safe haven” against invasions.

“Within these areas, they work with agro-ecological projects and this ends up also making it possible for some families to stay in these places. Besides enabling the surveillance of the territories, because they move between these protected areas”, Gilderlan Rodrigues explained.

Ka’apor indigenous people conduct surveillance and protection of their territories on their own (Cimi/Reproduction)

Self defense

With no response from the authorities, the almost 2,000 Ka’apor Indians defend their territories autonomously, now intensified by recurring conflicts. After the attempted murder of yet another leader, the indigenous people closed one of the main logging trails that are in the vicinity of the Indigenous Land.

“In recent times between 15 and 20 trails have been closed, but there are still many others. This last one, which they closed now, is one of the biggest, near Santa Luzia do Paruá, which they always wanted to close. And, of course, this has increased the threats”, revealed Cimi’s regional coordinator.

According to Rodrigues, the struggle is not new today, since the indigenous people began, around 2019, what they themselves call “retaking the territory. “This, with internal organization to combat logging invasions, thus forming the Ka’apor Management Council, aiming to ensure the good living of the population”, explained the activist.

“The Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Land is the largest TI in Maranhão. It is a very beautiful land, with a forest that is practically intact and, of course, this awakens the greed of the wood industry. The Ka’apor live this tense moment of facing the destruction of their territories, which, in turn, has local politicians involved and local businessmen involved, who move a large volume of resources. This arouses their anger, because, according to them, the indigenous people would be interfering in their business”, he added.


Cimi has already counted the death of six members of the Ka’apor people, killed because of their intensive action against the invasion and exploitation of protected territories. A “discrete” struggle, the result of “direct confrontation”, as the organization categorizes it. All the crimes, however, have gone unpunished.

“The most emblematic case we have is that of Eusébio Ka’apor (murdered in April 2015) that, to this day, we have no response. For the most recent cases, from last year, there is even a recommendation by the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office that the state government conduct an investigation. Furthermore, these last murdered indigenous people were killed outside their territories, in an attempt to mischaracterize the struggle for the protection of the communities. What happens is that when they die outside their territories, what is said is that this is not the responsibility of the State government or the Federal government (…) that is why these threats and murders of indigenous people continue”, revealed Gilderlan.

Murdered almost seven years ago, Eusébio belonged to the Xiborendá village of the Alto Turiaçu TI and worked as an indigenous sanitation agent; he was shot in the back by loggers. (Reproduction/CIMI)

“We would not have lost these lives if the State of Maranhão and the Brazilian State had fulfilled their roles. These deaths, all of them, are unpunished. There is, at this moment, nobody answering”, he repudiated.

What is Cimi’s role

In an emergency manner, the Indigenous Missionary Council has provided support to the Ka’apor indigenous people, through the Maranhão Regional Office, according to coordinator Gilderlan Rodrigues. In addition, the organization has promoted new debates, orientation, and searched for partners to face the situation that is very tense.

“We have contacted the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH) and the Program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Communicators, and Environmentalists (PPDDH), in order to discuss a collective strategy for the protection of the Indigenous Peoples, as well as, also, with the organizations here, from civil society, that support the struggle of the Ka’apor people, in addition to the support of the Office of the Federal Public Defender (DPU), which has been a great ally of this people here in Maranhão”, assured Rodrigues.

Once again, no answers

Again, sought and questioned by the report about the actions of command and control against the invasions and positioning regarding the conflicts, the government of Maranhão and the Federal Government, in the figure of the National Foundation of the Indian (FUNAI), gave no return.


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