A entire tribe of 170 Indians have vowed to commit mass suicide after a court in Brazil ruled they must leave what they believe is sacred land, it was reported today.
The community of 50 men, 50 women and 70 children from the Guarani-kaiowa tribe are camped inside a ranch in Brazil's southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul.
The Indians claim the land has been the graveyard of their ancestors for centuries, according to Brazil's Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI).
But this week, Judge Henrique Bonachela upheld a petition made by the ranch's owner to have the tribe evicted from the land.
He decreed a fine of £150 for every day the tribe remains on the land, on the banks of Brazil's Joguico River.
A spokesman for the tribe today said they do not intend to fight the judge's decision but would rather die on the land than be made to leave.
And in a letter the tribe called on the Brazilian government to respect their wishes to be buried there along with their ancestors.
It read: 'Because of this historic fact, we would prefer to die and be buried together with our ancestors right here where we are now.
'We ask, one time for all, for the government to decree our extinction as a tribe, and to send tractors to dig a big hole and there to throw our dead bodies.
'We have all decided that we will not leave this place, neither alive nor dead.'
A spokesman for CIMI described the development as of 'exceptional seriousness'.
And Federal Deputy Sarney Filho warned of the 'extremely worrying' situation.
In a letter to Brazil's Justice Minsitry, he wrote: 'This tribe has had its culture and lands attacked for centuries. They could now go down in history as being the tribe which wiped themselves out by committing collective suicide.
'We must take the necessary measures to avert the worst.'
Indian tribes in southern Brazil have for years been fighting for the country to recognise their traditional lands, many of which now belong to farmers and rich landowners.