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Kaiowa-Guarani Chief Murdered

November 18, 2011

Brazil’s National Indian Foundation or Funai has reported that a Kaiowa-Guarani leader named Nisio Gomes was executed today near the Amambay in Mato Grosso do Sul. Forty masked men entered the the Guarani’s encampment, executed Gomes in front of his son who was also beat up and shot with a rubber bullet. (It’s interesting that hired thugs would possess rubber bullets–sounds like law enforcement or trained security was invovled). Two others were kidnapped, their whereabouts are unknown.The rest of the Guarani fled to hide in the forest. Apparently the gunmen were hired by local ranchers after the Guarani occupied land from which they were previously evicted. The Roman Catholic Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) told reporters that the Guarani remain defiant.

These types of land disputes and subsequent murders are common in Mato Grosso do Sul and in Paraguay’s chaco region. Throughout the twentieth century as monoculture agriculture and cattle ranching grew non-sedentary natives began to bump into farmers and ranchers. Many of these encounters resulted in just the thing that happened today in Mato Grosso–ranchers used violence to get natives off land they sought to use. In the 50s and 60s Catholic and Protestant missions tried to intervene. Many missions were established in cooperation with ranchers in an effort to bring natives out of the wilderness and out of conflict with advancing “progress.” This is a definitely a simplification of complicated processes with individual native groups, but many of them seem to have begun in an effort to save natives from these types of interactions with mestizo farmers and ranchers.

Unfortunately, as many anthropologists report, native populations were decimated once they came into constant contact large numbers of white missionaries. Encounters like today sadden me and reveal modern nation-states’ utter lack of resolve to preserve and protect minority indigenous peoples.

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