- In just 72 hours, five Indigenous people were wounded by gunfire in violent attacks in the past few days in a part of the Brazilian Amazon dubbed the “palm oil war” region, sparking outrage and claims for justice.
- This was the latest episode in a wave of escalating violence tied to land disputes between Indigenous communities and palm oil companies in the region, which Mongabay has consistently reported on over the past year.
- In this video, Mongabay showcases the Tembé Indigenous peoples’ outrage against increasing violence in the area as they protest for justice.
This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network where Karla Mendes is a fellow.
In just 72 hours this month, five Indigenous people were wounded by gunfire in violent attacks in a part of the Brazilian Amazon dubbed the “palm oil war” region, sparking outrage and claims for justice.
On Aug. 4, private security guards from palm oil company Brasil BioFuels S.A. (BBF) allegedly shot 19-year-old Kauã Tembé in the Bananal Indigenous village, in Tomé-Açu municipality, in northern Pará state. On Aug. 7, Felipe Tembé, Dayane Tembé, Erlany Portilho Ferreira Tembé and Pylikape Tembé were also allegedly shot by BBF’s guards, Indigenous leaders say.
Dayane Tembé was shot in the neck and she underwent surgery in a hospital in the state capital, Belém. Her situation is stable but she still cannot eat, Urutaw Turiwar Tembé, chief of the Yriwar Indigenous village, told Mongabay in a voice message.
Following the shootings, Indigenous peoples held a demonstration outside the police station in the town of Quatro Bocas, where Felipe Tembé was jailed on Aug. 7 for what they say were unclear reasons. “Have you arrested the security guard who shot my son?” Urutaw Tembé demanded, as seen in the video below, claiming justice for his son Kauã Tembé and all Indigenous people shot in the weekend’s attacks.
This was the latest episode in a wave of escalating violence tied to land disputes between Indigenous communities and palm oil companies in the region, which Mongabay has consistently reported on over the past year. On one side, Indigenous communities say BBF has occupied their ancestral land; on the other, BBF says it owns the land.
Pará’s State Department of Public Security and Social Defense said the security guard identified as the mastermind behind Kauã Tembé’s shooting was detained on Aug. 7 and inquiries to identify the other suspects are ongoing. Security in the area was also increased, according to an Aug. 8 emailed statement.
In an emailed statement, BBF denied the accusations and accused the Indigenous communities of invading an area that “is not demarcated indigenous land but the company’s private property,” and also of attacking its outsourced private security. BBF’s full statement in Portuguese is available here.
The Tembé leaders headed to Belém on Aug. 8 for a demonstration during the Amazon Summit and had a meeting with Joenia Wapichana, president of Funai, the federal agency for Indigenous affairs.
“We cannot accept violence to resolve any kind of impasse. Differences must be resolved with dialog or judicially, but never with violence,” said Joenia Wapichana in an Aug. 8 statement published on the federal government’s website.
Funai’s Attorney General’s Office is monitoring the case, Joenia Wapichana said, and Funai’s technicians should travel to the region in the coming days to investigate the situation. The creation of a group to define immediate measures to prevent Indigenous people from suffering threats and/or being victims of violence is also under analysis, according to the statement.
Joenia Wapichana said that the claims, related to the expansion of the Indigenous territories Turé-Mariquita, Turé-Mariquita 2, Tembé do Acará Miri and land demarcation for the Turiwara people, all in Tomé-Açu, are being processed for the subsequent creation of working groups to investigate each case. “All the demands we receive are under study, but we need to recognize that we do not have enough staff to conduct the work, as Funai is strapped.”
Banner image: Indigenous activists demanding justice after five from their communities were shot. Image courtesy of Tembé and Turiwara Indigenous communities.
Karla Mendes is a staff investigative and feature reporter for Mongabay in Brazil and a fellow of the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network. Read her stories published on Mongabay here. Find her on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
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Read the full story of the shootings below: