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Leader of Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe people in Brazil dies

@portalsudoesteemfoco | Instagram

A group of 200 large landowners, armed non-Indigenous “ruralists,” attacked the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe people, an Indigenous group in Bahia, Brazil, as they were setting up camp to reclaim their land on Jan. 21.

Maria de Fátima Muniz Pataxó, a spiritual leader, was shot and killed, while  Nailton Pataxó, another leader, sustained injuries during the attack. The incident occurred during a gathering outside Potiraguá, Bahia, where several others were also reported injured.

The murderers, allegedly linked to the militia “Invasion Zero,” surrounded the area near the Rio Pardo River, opening fire during the gathering. 

Witnesses noted a peaceful atmosphere before the onslaught. Video footage showed that the activist group was chanting and dancing, while officers stood aside to ensure their safety during the campaign. 

Despite the escalating violence, law enforcement reportedly refrained from intervening as the mob unleashed chaos. Relatives of the victims criticized the police’s inaction, lamenting the loss of Pataxó and the injuries sustained by others.

“The police were watching everything,” Mukunã Pataxó said, the nephew of  Pataxó who was also seriously injured and suffered serious gunshot wounds from the attack. “As if we were nothing to them.”

Invasion Zero denied involvement in the attack, asserting individual responsibility. However, this incident epitomizes a broader trend of aggression against Indigenous communities striving to reclaim ancestral lands in Brazil’s volatile regions.

The Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe and other local Indigenous groups have long endured violence in their struggle for land rights. Previous incidents, including the deaths of three Pataxó youths in 2022, underscore the persistent threats faced by these communities.

Responding to the escalating tension, the Ministry of Indigenous People established a crisis office to “monitor the conflict situation in the region of the extreme south of Bahia.” The organization also aims to protect indigenous rights and to call for state government intervention. 

They also found that the local and the state military police were involved in the murders along with the armed militia and other non-state perpetrators. 

They urged the state government and President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to follow their promises to solve injustices and violence against the Indigenous community.

However, despite the unanimous call for national force by Indigenous leaders, the state government rejected the request, asserting confidence in local security forces. The state argued that these forces were adequate to protect Indigenous sovereignty and personal rights.

After the tragic incident, community members mourn the loss of their revered leader “She’s always here,” Mukunã said. 

“In our rituals, in our songs, in the closing of our eyes, in the blowing of the wind. She is our legend because she fought for what was hers.”

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