Newsletter n. 263

Pataxo Indians under risk of massacre in Brazil

Farmers who invaded the traditional territory of the Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae Indians in the state of Bahia continue to threaten them. Indian-supporting entities have been warning that the situation may lead to a massacre in the area at any moment.

The tension increased after the indigenous population recovered five farms located in their area a few days after the death of leader Galdino Pataxo, on April 20. Galdino, who was in Brasilia as a member of a delegation of his people to claim the invaded land, was burned alive.

In addition to the shock caused by the barbaric crime, the Pataxo people have virtually become hostage of the farmers. The threats and retaliation have become more intense as the date for the judgment by the Federal Regional Court of a writ of prevention proposed by the Department of Justice draws near. The suit requests that the Pataxo be allowed to remain in the five farms. A Pataxo group is in Brasilia, the capital, to attend the trial, which will probably be scheduled for next week. According to Gerson Pataxo, "our lives are in the hands of these judges." He also said that his people will not leave the land they reoccupied and demands a final decision from the courts allowing the Pataxo to occupy the claimed territory once and for all.

This Friday, 29 defense witnesses of the four killers of Galdino Pataxo will be heard by the Federal District Court. Because he is a minor, the fifth assassin has been judged already and sentenced to the strictest punishment provided for infractor adolescents in Brazil: three-year institutionalization.


Through its governor, union, student and Cimi representatives, and other Indian-supporting groups, the population of Brasilia paid homage to Galdino Pataxo by placing a sculpture by Siron Franco, a renowned Brazilian artist, in the Compromisso Square, where the Indian was killed. The sculpture is meant to represent Galdino and symbolize Justice and Freedom.


Tupinikim chief Luis Ramos and Mauricio Goncalves, representative of the Guarani people, were received with cheers by 100 other Indians at the airport of Vitoria, state of Espirito Santo, on the 3rd, as they arrived from a trip to Norway and England. In those countries, they met with congresspersons, representatives of the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Trade, churches and NGOs and requested support to the demarcation of their land, located in the municipality of Aracruz, state of Espirito Santo.

The Bank of Norway is a shareholder of the Lorentzen company, owner of 20% of the stock of the Aracruz Celulose corporation - which invaded the traditional territory of the Tupinikim and Guarani. The Indians are claiming 13,570 hectares and at the moment they occupy only 4,500, which are not sufficient to ensure their physical and cultural survival. The claimed area has been identified by the official Indianist agency already, but because of the Decree 1,775/96, issued by the federal administration to favor invaders of indigenous areas, its demarcation is still pending.

Brasilia, 5 June 1997
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi