BRASILIA, Brazil -- A judge has suspended an order to evict 170 Indians from a plot in southwestern Brazil they say is ancestral land.

Federal judge Cecilia Mello says the Guarani-Kaiowa Indians can remain on the 2.5-acre (1 hectare) plot they occupied about 10 years ago until authorities decide if they or ranchers are the rightful owners.

Last month, a local judge ruled that the Indians had to abandon the land so that it could be returned to farmers who had been raising cattle and growing soybeans there.

Indian leaders said in a letter sent to government officials that they would "fight for our land down to our last warrior."

Police have been sent to the area to prevent conflicts between the Indians and hired gunmen.

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  • An Indian wearing a traditional headdress wears a sign that reads in Portuguese "End the genocide, long live the Indians, rivers and trees," at a protest by various Indian communities in defense of the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe who are involved in a land dispute in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

  • Indian men from various tribes protest in defense of the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe who are involved in a land dispute in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

  • Eri from the Manchineri Indian tribe wears traditional headdress at a protest in defense of the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe who are involved in a land dispute in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

  • Indians of various tribes, joined by students, demonstrate in support of the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe in Brasilia, October 31, 2012.(EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Indians of various tribes, joined by students, demonstrate in support of the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe in Brasilia, October 31, 2012. (EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Students take part in a demonstration in support of the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe in Brasilia, October 31, 2012. (EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Indians of various tribes, joined by students, demonstrate in support of the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe in Brasilia, October 31, 2012. (EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Indians of various tribes, joined by students, demonstrate in support of the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe in Brasilia, October 31, 2012. (EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A boy of the Guarani Kaiowa tribe poses for a photo at the Kari-Oca village, where indigenous from around the world are staying during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

  • Students slash their arms during a demonstration in support of the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe in Brasilia, October 31, 2012. (EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)