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Last survivor of Brazilian indigenous tribe dies after decades of resisting contact

An indigenous man who survived completely alone and without contact in the Brazilian Amazon for decades after his tribe was steadily exterminated has died, a local government agency announced on Saturday.

The so-called “Hole Man”, who was believed to be around 60 years old, was found dead on Tuesday in a hammock inside his hut located in the Tanaru Indigenous Land in west-central Brazil, the country’s national indigenous agency , FUNAI, reported.

There were no signs of violence or struggle and he is believed to have died of natural causes, FUNAI said.

The so-called “Man in the Hole” is seen cutting down a tree in a video taken by Funai, Brazil’s national indigenous agency.

The man who earned his name from the holes he dug to trap and hide his prey had been monitored by FUNAI from a distance for almost three decades, according to the non-profit organization Survival International, which works to protect tribal lands and their people.

Fiona Watson, director of research and advocacy for the organization that wrote about visiting man’s territory in 2005, described him as determined to avoid contact with strangers and said he would shoot arrows at intruders as a warning, in one case injuring a man who worked for FUNAI. That man quickly recovered from his injury, Watson said.

Although much of his past was unknown, he was believed to be the sole survivor of attacks on his tribe by armed men who had been hired by settlers and ranchers beginning in the 1970s.

The man is seen watching from a straw hut he made.  The man avoided contact with other humans for decades after his tribe was killed, an organization said.
The man is seen watching from a straw hut he made. The man avoided contact with other humans for decades after his tribe was killed, an organization said.

Vicente Carelli_ Corumbiara

“No outsider knew this man’s name, or even much about his tribe, and with his death, the genocide of his people is complete. Because this was indeed genocide: the deliberate elimination of an entire people by land- and wealth-hungry ranchers,” Watson said in a statement Sunday.

His body will undergo a forensic examination by federal police, FUNAI said.

There are approximately 300 tribes living in Brazil today, according to international Survival, and the “Hole Man” had been described as the only member of the tribe residing alone in the entire country.

“It symbolized both the heinous violence and cruelty inflicted on indigenous peoples around the world in the name of colonization and profit, but also their resistance,” Watson said. “We can only imagine the horrors he had witnessed in his life and the loneliness of his existence after the rest of his tribe had been killed, but he determinedly resisted all attempts at contact and made it clear that he only wanted to be left alone.”

One of the man’s thatched huts is seen in a clearing he made.

copyright – J Pessoa Survival International

Watson warned that if more is not done to protect the local population, they could soon disappear entirely. In particular, he singled out Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, and his long-term efforts to put profit about the tropical forests and indigenous peoples of the country. Deforestation in the Amazon the rain forest has sprung up since Bolsonaro took office in 2019.

Bolsanaro, who faces re-election in October, has recently made efforts to show that he is taking environmental protection more seriously. In May, raised fines for environmental crimes, something he previously opposed.

This followed earlier this year by trying to fast-track a law that would legalize mining on indigenous reserves. His legal push was unsuccessful in Congress amid concerns that voters might not be happy with him in an election year, since Reuters reports.

Bolsanaro was sued last year by indigenous leaders who accused him of committing crimes against humanity for his policies towards indigenous tribes and the Amazon rainforest. The legal suit cited increasing deforestation in the country’s Amazon, killings of Brazilian indigenous leaders, and efforts by the Bolsonaro government to strip protection from rainforest and tribal lands.

The man was nicknamed
The man was nicknamed “Man in the Hole” because of the deep holes he dug to capture prey and hide. One of his holes is shown.

J Pessoa_ Survival International


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