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By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Authorities in Brazil are still trying to piece together what exactly happened in the rural area of Viana, in the Northeastern state of Maranhão on Sunday, as members of the Gamera indigenous tribe clashed with men armed with machetes and firearms, according to CIMI (Indigenous Missionary Council).

Brazil, São Luis,Indigenous of the  Gamela in a hospital in São Luis, Maranhão after attack,
Indigenous of the Gamela in a hospital in São Luis, Maranhão after attack, photo by Ana Mendes/CIMI.

According to the Catholic entity at least thirteen native Indians were injured, two of them had their hands severed and five were shot. The victims were taken to hospitals in Maranhão’s capital, São Luis. There is, so far, no confirmation of deaths from the incident.

“We are afraid of new attacks at any moment,” one of the natives from the Gamela tribe was quoted as saying by CIMI volunteers, adding, “The police are saying that it was not an attack, but a confrontation. This is not true; we were caught in a trap. We can barely defend ourselves, look what happened.”

Local media says there is still no clue as to the group that led the attack but farmers in the region dispute the area. According to the native Indians they had decided to leave an occupied area when they were attacked by the white men.

“They [Gamela] are not accepted by the local population as being indigenous,” the town’s sheriff was quoted by local media as saying. “There is a big question here about this, I do not even know if they are indigenous or they are not, so far we do not know, understand?” added the sheriff.

After the attack state military police were deployed to the region to intervene in further conflicts. The National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) was also notified and the intention is to involve the federal government in guaranteeing human rights and protecting the Gamela.

A report by CIMI said this was mainly because the military and civil police are close to the main opponents of the tribes agenda of identification and demarcation of the traditional territory.

According to CIMI one of the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, will be notified about the attack on the Gamela.

In New York, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Affairs has been meeting since last week. The delegation from Brazil is represented by Munduruku, Yanomami, Baré and Kanamary natives, as well as entities such as CIMI.

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