Society

Murder of 14-year-old in Bahia highlights centuries-old indigenous land struggle

Residents of the Comexatibá and Barra Velha indigenous lands face the constant threat of violence from local farmers, and government inactivity has denied them protection

indigenous bahia With flags of Bahia and Brazil, indigenous groups protest: "Invaders go away, demarcation [of their land] now." Photo: Aldeia Pataxó Boca da Mata Archives
With flags of Bahia and Brazil, indigenous groups protest: “Invaders go away, demarcation [of their land] now.” Photo: Aldeia Pataxó Boca da Mata Archives

In the early hours of Sunday, September 4, 14-year-old Gustavo Silva da Conceição was awoken from his sleep and shot in the head. A member of the Pataxó indigenous community in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, Gustavo’s family had peacefully occupied a eucalyptus plantation that the Pataxó claim to be encroaching on their ancestral lands.

Eyewitness accounts say that a group of masked gunmen arrived at the occupation early that morning, carrying shotguns, rifles, and tear gas canisters. They opened fire on the tents assembled in the area, shooting Gustavo and another indigenous teenager. Gustavo was taken to the...

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