Last Survivor of an Amazonian Tribe is Glimpsed
The Brazilian indigenous affairs department, also known as FUNAI, have released a remarkable video. It shows footage of an indigenous man in the Amazon who is believed to be the last living member of his tribe. The footage shows a lone individual, who has become known as the ‘man of the hole’. The video is proof that, remarkably, the man has been able to survive in the Amazon forest by himself and is being used to help to preserve an area reserved for indigenous uncontacted people.
Uncontacted tribes in the Amazon
It is reported by The Hindu Times that ‘Brazil is home to the world's largest population of uncontacted people, and 80 of these tribes are thought to live in the Amazon’. They are small groups of nomadic hunter-gathers whose lands are threatened by development and especially by illegal loggers - and they shun outsiders. This is because these indigenous communities are often attacked by outsiders and they are especially vulnerable to communicable diseases such as flu. These groups are in the main located in the Brazilian states of Rondonia and Mato Grosso.
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State of Rondônia, Brazil. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
The last of his tribe
The man belonged to a small group of indigenous who were wiped out. Illegal loggers and cattle ranchers invaded isolated territory in Rondônia in the 1980s and 1990s. Many indigenous tribes were driven from their land, killed by diseases or murdered. The man in the footage is believed to be the lone survivor of a small mysterious tribe, whose name and language are unknown. Live Science reports that the other remaining members of the tribe were all killed, ‘possibly by cattle ranchers’, in 1995.
The footage shows the man chopping down a tree. He is believed to be in his fifties and wears only a loincloth. The video was shot in the remote Tanaru indigenous reserve, which was only established a few years ago. The video footage was shot in 2011 by a member of FUNAI and a member of that organization recently tracked him in the forest and provided definite evidence that he was still alive. It is believed that the lone man has not had any contact with any other individuals, including indigenous people, for years. You can see the video footage on the FUNAI facebook page, here.
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The figure in the footage is well-known to FUNAI. They have been aware of the existence of the lone survivor for over twenty years. The agency has given him the nickname of the ‘man of the hole’ because of the many holes he makes in the forest. He digs holes to trap animals and also seems to hide in them, possibly still wary of ranchers and loggers.
FUNAI tried to contact the man in the late 1990s, but he has resisted their attempts and has even shot arrows at those who come near him. Since 2005 the agency has only monitored him to make sure that he is not at risk from any intruders into the reservation. The Brazilian indigenous affairs department believes that the man is only able to survive, because the area where he lives, hunts and occasionally plants food, is now protected by the federal government.
The importance of the footage
The Brazilian agency and others often publish images and videos of uncontacted tribes to prove their continued survival. Ranchers and other groups claim that the uncontacted indigenous groups are extinct so that they can secure the lands in their reservations. FUNAI issued the video footage to show that the individual is still alive and that his territory still needed to be protected, as required by law. The footage is being used to help the Brazilian indigenous affairs department to keep ranchers and others out of the Tanaru indigenous reserve.
The Daily Mail reports that a local FUNAI worker stated that the man proved that even ‘alone in the middle of the bush, it is possible to survive and resist allying with society.' The ‘man of the hole’ is now advanced in years and his future depends on the government preserving the Tanaru indigenous reserve. The video footage demonstrates that there is still the possibility of more isolated groups of uncontacted people surviving in the dense forests of the Amazon. It also shows that the existing reservations need to be preserved to protect any remaining uncontacted tribes and individuals from the outside world.
Top image: Funai-Fundacao Nacional do Indio [Funai] captured this image of an Indigenous man believed to have been living alone for 22 years. Source: Funai-Fundacao Nacional do Indio
By Ed Whelan