Brazil: The Ka'apor people need our support!

Indigenous Ka'apor people – children, women and men – join hands and form a circle in the rainforest Ka'apor people performing a ceremony (© Poema/Johann Graf) Portrait of indigenous leader Sarapo Ka'apor wearing a feather headdress Murder? The Ka'apor fear that their late leader Sarapo Ka'apor was poisoned. (© Andrew Johnson) Indigenous Ka'apor standing in a double row in front of two huts in the forest The Ka'apor have preserved their traditional way of life in their villages. (© Poema/Johann Graf) Territory of the Ka'apor: satellite image of the north of the Brazilian state of Maranhão Satellite image of the north of the Brazilian state of Maranhão: To the left, the rainforest territory of the Ka'apor, Alto Turiaçu, surrounded by almost completely deforested areas; To the right, the Atlantic Ocean and the city of São Luís (© Google Maps) A Kaapori capuchin monkey climbing on a branch The critically endangered Kaapori capuchin monkey has its last habitat in the Ka'apor rainforest. (© CC BY-SA 4.0) Ka'apor – “Sarapo vive” poster © TUXA TA PAME

The indigenous Ka'apor people are calling for our support: Their ancestral rainforest is being plundered by loggers, miners and land grabbers. The Ka'apor are not taking the encroachment lying down, even though they face intimidation, assault and even murder. Please tell the Brazilian authorities to finally take action!

News and updates Call to action

To: The Brazilian Federal Government, the Ministry of Justice and the Federal Prosecutor's Office, the Government and Prosecutor's Office of the State of Maranhāo, the Secretariat of Public Security

“The Brazilian authorities must protect the indigenous Ka'apor from persecution and violence and their ancestral land from deforestation.”

Read letter

The indigenous leader Sarapo Ka'apor died on May 14, 2022. According to representatives of the Ka'apor people, the evidence suggests that he was poisoned. They are calling on the Brazilian authorities to exhume his body so that forensic experts can clarify the circumstances and determine the exact cause of his death.

As the most prominent forest conservationist in the region and organizer of resistance to mining, Sarapo made numerous powerful enemies. This possible killing is not an isolated case: Since 2010, two Ka'apor villages have been raided by loggers, 60 people have been assaulted and 18 indigenous people have been murdered.

Logging and mining companies, cattle ranchers, large landowners and land grabbers have almost completely cleared the rainforest right up to the edge of the Ka'apor's 531,000-hectare Alto Turiaçu territory, and now they are not even stopping at its borders. The existing protected area is only a remnant of an originally much larger territory that had been stolen from the Ka'apor over the past decades.

Loggers operating in the area cut tropical woods such as ipé, massaranduba and cedro for export and the production of garden furniture, parquet and wooden decking. Mining companies have obtained state concessions to thousands of hectares to mine gold.

The violence and destruction of nature is happening before the eyes of state officials and the Brazilian government, which have been largely inactive, ignoring the complaints and demands of the indigenous people. Many civil servants and politicians are corrupt and involved in the activities.

The Ka'apor council, TUXA TA PAME, has contacted us for help. Please sign our petition to the Brazilian authorities calling on them to investigate the full range of crimes against the Ka'apor, bring the perpetrators to justice and ensure the security of the indigenous people and their territory.

Start of petition: 02/06/2022

Back­ground Letter

To: The Brazilian Federal Government, the Ministry of Justice and the Federal Prosecutor's Office, the Government and Prosecutor's Office of the State of Maranhāo, the Secretariat of Public Security

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are dismayed by the violence against the Ka'apor indigenous people and the encroachment against their ancestral territory, Alto Turiaçu, in the state of Maranhāo.

More than 60 people have been assaulted there since 2013; two villages have been attacked by loggers and 18 people have been murdered since 2010.

On May 14, 2022, Sarapo Ka'apor passed away suddenly and under unclear circumstances at the age of 45. The indigenous people fear that he was poisoned because of his role as one of the leading defenders of the territory.

The Ka'apor people are being threatened, persecuted and murdered for defending their 531,000-hectare Alto Turiaçu territory and its resources against unlawful invaders. These include loggers, prospectors, mining companies, land grabbers, ranchers, large landowners and agribusinesses.

The area is home to the last major remnant of the Amazon rainforest in the state of Maranhão. Its protection is essential for the survival of the Ka'apor and their culture and the conservation of the territory's unique biodiversity.

We support the demands of TUXA TA PAME, the Ka'apor indigenous council, to the federal and local governments and relevant authorities, calling for immediate urgent action to protect the people, their territory and their rights, including:

- The exhumation of Sarapo Ka'apor and the thorough investigation of the causes of his death. If his death was caused by external interference, the perpetrator or perpetrators must be identified and brought to justice.

- The investigation all other above-mentioned crimes, including the identification of the perpetrators and their prosecution.

- The protection of the indigenous inhabitants and their Alto Turiaçu territory from all forms of violence, persecution and threats, and from illegal invaders and the plundering of their resources.

- The recognition of the Ka'apor territories as communities that need support with public measures in the areas of health, education and technical assistance.

We look forward to your prompt written response about the measures you intend to take.

Yours faithfully,

News and updates

June 13, 2022

International pressure is beginning to have an effect: TUXA TA PAME, the council of the indigenous Ka'apor, has informed us that on June 11, 2022, the body of Sarapo Ka'apor was exhumed as they had requested. The operation was carried out by a team of medical experts from Sāo Luis, the capital of the state of Maranhāo.

The next step now is for forensic pathologists to conduct an autopsy to determine the exact cause of his death. Rainforest Rescue has written to the Brazilian authorities urging them to investigate the circumstances of his death.

Meanwhile, the Ka'apor are preparing a series of actions: From June 13 to 15, they will undertake a three-day "March for Good Rainforest Coexistence" and for "Indigenous Territories Free of Aggression." Among other things, they are calling on the Brazilian authorities to guarantee the safety of indigenous people from aggression and the protection of Alto Turiaçu, their recognized territory.

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News · Dec 15, 2023

Brazil: US carbon traders stoke conflict among Indigenous Ka'apor

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Study finds Indigenous Ka’apor are Brazil’s best rainforest defenders

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Success · Jan 13, 2023

Brazil: Rainforest Rescue petition leads to federal police investigation

Our petition “Brazil: The Ka’apor people need our support” has prompted the opening of an investigation by the Brazilian federal police to clarify the cause of death of Indigenous leader Sarapo Ka’apor and to identify the perpetrators. The Ka’apor people say that their leader was poisoned for resisting rainforest destruction by loggers, cattle ranchers, agribusiness and mining companies.


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