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.