In Maranhão, Ka’apor leader is ambushed for promoting territorial defense

Iury Lima – Cenarium Magazine

VILHENA (RO) – “The Ka’apor people of the Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Land, especially those [members] most closely linked to the Ka’apor Management Council, suffered another death threat, in the city of Santa Luzia do Paruá, one of the municipalities that the territory covers (…) The Ka’apor people have been fighting for many years against the invasion of their territories and, because of this, they have been threatened and have also had murder victims”. The report is from the Regional Coordinator of the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), Gilderlan Rodrigues. He describes the persecution suffered by one of the traditional peoples of Maranhão and reveals the new ambush that almost killed one of the leaders of the ethnic group last Saturday, 22.

Four cars surrounded the vehicle where the indigenous people of the ethnic group were, together with the leader of the original people, whose identities were not revealed for fear of further attacks. They managed to leave the vehicle, then fled on foot and found shelter in a restaurant. They then headed to a police station, where they waited outside for two hours, but were not attended to. They were only able to return to the village after contacting other Ka’apor leaders, who went to the city, and the Maranhão Secretary of Public Safety, who guaranteed an escort back to the traditional community.

For the indigenous people, the attack was orchestrated by loggers. A sad reality that, for a long time now, is no longer news in the region. For Girderlan Rodrigues, the same fate did not befall “other Ka’apor who were assassinated”.”And to this day there is not one person arrested or responding to an inquiry”, lamented the coordinator of CIMI in Maranhão.

Resistance

The attack last Saturday is one more violent episode among several that make up the struggle of the Ka’apor indigenous people against invaders of their territories. According to CIMI, the Indigenous Land (TI) Alto Turiaçu, which borders Pará and covers 531,000 hectares, suffers great pressure from land grabbers, hunters and mining companies.

The most recent ambush was not by chance; it happened right after an event promoted to strengthen the territorial protection of the communities, which took place in the municipality of Nova Olinda, a little more than 20 kilometers from the site of the attack. In addition, the indigenous closed one of the largest logging branches in the vicinity of the TI.

“The Alto Turiaçu Territory is one of the largest indigenous territories in Maranhão. For many years it has suffered logging invasions and the people have decided to no longer accept these invasions and have begun work to confront them”, said the Regional Coordinator of CIMI.

Girderlan also points out another adversary to the preservation of the region’s ecosystems and the territorial right of the Ka’apor people: governmental omission. “Unfortunately, we have seen that the state government has not complied with the inspection of the sawmills that are in the area or the trucks that leave for the municipalities, and the federal government has done nothing. Now we have just seen a cut that was made in the budget for inspection, in the demarcation of the Indigenous Lands. So, this also means that the federal government has not been fulfilling its role of inspecting the Indigenous Lands, through the responsible body, which is FUNAI”, he criticized.

“The indigenous people are doing the protection of their territories on their own initiative, autonomously. So, I think that their role of protecting their territory, of protecting their homes from these invasions that only come to destroy the territory is commendable”, concluded the activist and regional coordinator of the Indigenous Missionary Council.

Ka’apor people close logging roads and fight to promote protection of the Alto Turiaçu territory, in Maranhão (CIMI/Reproduction)

Historical context that repeats itself

Today, the group is made up of about 1,800 people. They live in the north of Maranhão, but, according to the oldest historical records, dating back at least 300 years, these indigenous people originated in the region between the Tocantins and Xingu rivers. They speak the language that bears the same name as their ethnic group, and are the only group to use the language.

The history marked by violent clashes between the native people and the country’s colonizers is repeating itself. The current attacks resemble the ‘pacification’ scenario that began around 1900 and resulted in the annihilation of several villages, since at the time, the ethnic group was seen as one of the most hostile native peoples in Brazil.

No Answers

CENARIUM MAGAZINE contacted the state government of Maranhão, the target of Ka’apor demands, but did not receive a reply. Likewise, the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) had not provided any clarification until the closing of this report.

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