Brazil Tribe of 170 Threatens Mass Suicide If Forced to Leave Ancestral Land

An indigenous Guarani-Kaiowa Brazilian from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul fixes a cross into the lawn at the Esplanade of Ministries in Brasilia yesterday. Initial reports indicated his entire tribe of 170 Indians vowed to commit mass suicide after a court ruled they must leave what they believe is sacred land, but a subsequent statement said the group would protest and fire on federal agents or anyone who tries to remove them from the land. (Photo: Reuters.)

Brazil Tribe of 170 Threatens Mass Suicide If Forced to Leave Ancestral Land

'They could now go down in history as being the tribe which wiped themselves out'

An entire indigenous tribe in Brazil told the government they will leave their sacred burial ground "neither dead nor alive," leading to speculation that the group of 170 plans mass suicide.

The Daily Mail reported Wednesday that the Guarani-kaiowa tribe claims their ancestors were buried on the land--inside a ranch in Brazil's southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, according to Brazil's Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI).

But in September, a judge upheld a petition by the ranch owners to evict the Guarani-kaiowa from the land, and imposed a fine of PS150 for every day the tribe remains on the land.

The tribe wrote to the Brazilian government that they would rather die than leave the land, and requested that they be buried there.

According to The Daily Mail, the letter states, in part:

We would prefer to die and be buried together with our ancestors right here where we are now.

We ask, one time for all, for the government to decree our extinction as a tribe, and to send tractors to dig a big hole and there to throw our dead bodies.

We have all decided that we will not leave this place, neither alive nor dead.

"This tribe has had its culture and lands attacked for centuries," Federal Deputy Sarney Filho wrote in a letter to Brazil's Justice Ministry. "They could now go down in history as being the tribe which wiped themselves out by committing collective suicide ... We must take the necessary measures to avert the worst."

But also on Wednesday, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) reported that the tribe denied reports that it planned mass suicide.

CIMI spokesman Ruy Sposati told APTN that the group planned "mass resistance."

"It is not suicide ... this is a mistake," Sposati said. "They say they are going to die together resisting on their land if they are removed by federal agents, the military or gunmen. They are going to stand up and if they start shooting, they won't run."

Sposati said the tribe would be armed only with bows and arrows and wooden hatchets.

"They don't usually resist with violence and they will stay there," he said. "(A massacre) is one of the possibilities."

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