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‘Man of the Hole,’ Last Member of His Amazon Tribe, Dies in Brazil: NPR

In this 2011 video frame released by the National Foundation of the Brazilian Indian, an indigenous man is seen in the forest of Rondonia, Brazil. The Brazilian Indigenous Foundation released a video in 2018 of the man believed to be the last surviving member of his tribe. His death was announced this weekend.

National Foundation of the Brazilian Indian via AP


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National Foundation of the Brazilian Indian via AP


In this 2011 video frame released by the National Foundation of the Brazilian Indian, an indigenous man is seen in the forest of Rondonia, Brazil. The Brazilian Indigenous Foundation released a video in 2018 of the man believed to be the last surviving member of his tribe. His death was announced this weekend.

National Foundation of the Brazilian Indian via AP

The last member of a defeated indigenous tribe in Brazil has died, apparently of natural causes. Activists defend his legacy as a symbol of both the genocide and the resilience of his people, and call for his country to be preserved as a reminder of both.

Little is known about the man whose death what was announced over the weekend by Funai, Brazil’s federal agency for indigenous affairs. He was the only inhabitant of the Tanaru Indigenous Territory in the western Amazonian state of Rondonia.

His ethnic origin, language and name remain a mystery. But his uniqueness, and decades of isolation, earned him wider recognition inside and outside of Brazil. He earned the nickname “The Pit Man” due to the deep trenches he dug (sometimes with sharp stakes inside), and he could be seen chopping down a tree with an axe-like tool. in a video captured by a government team in 2018.

The rest of his tribe were likely massacred in attacks by gunmen hired by settlers and ranchers dating back to the 1970s, according to international survival, a London-based human rights organization that advocates for indigenous and uncontacted peoples. Since then, he had resisted all attempts at contact and “made it clear that he just wanted to be left alone,” said Fiona Watson, Survival’s director of research and advocacy. in a sentence.

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

Funai believes the man died of natural causes and has ordered a report from the federal medical examiner to confirm this.

The man lived an isolated and nomadic life.


A portion of the man’s face is seen in a still from the 2009 film. corumbiara by Vicente Carelli.

Vicente Carelli/Corumbiara


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Vicente Carelli/Corumbiara


A portion of the man’s face is seen in a still from the 2009 film. corumbiara by Vicente Carelli.

Vicente Carelli/Corumbiara

His body was found in a hammock inside his shack last Tuesday during a round of federal monitoring and territorial surveillance, the agency added. There were no signs of violence or fighting, and no indication that others had been on the site or in the nearby woods.

The Guardians reports that a Funai official monitoring the man’s welfare from afar found his body in a state of decomposition with colored feathers placed around it, possibly indicating that the man had prepared for death. The official estimated that his age was around 60 years.

Dozens of abandoned campsites suggest the man had moved on over the years. Funai said the cabin he was found in was the 53rd that he had searched in the past 26 years. It was architecturally similar to the previous ones, made of thatch and thatch, and featured a single door and an interior version of the holes he was known to dig.


This is one of the holes that the man dug inside his huts. The trenches he dug for hunting and protection earned him the nickname “Man in the Pit”.

J Pessoa/Survival International


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J Pessoa/Survival International


This is one of the holes that the man dug inside his huts. The trenches he dug for hunting and protection earned him the nickname “Man in the Pit”.

J Pessoa/Survival International

The holes were likely there for protection in the event of an attack, according to Survival International. The nonprofit organization also said the man planted corn, cassava, papayas and bananas, as well as catching animals with his stake traps.

Funai first became aware of the man’s existence in the 1990s after uncovering evidence of destroyed parcels of farmland, as well as homes apparently pulled by tractors. The agency fenced off an area for the man to live undisturbed and then formally created the Tanaru reserve in 2007.

Tanaru’s territory “rises like a small island of forest in a sea of ​​vast cattle ranches, in one of the most violent regions of Brazil,” according to Survival. In 2009, the man survived a attack by armed men — which Survival attributes to ranchers in the area, who opposed government efforts to protect the land.

Indigenous rights are on the ballot in Brazil


Man built dozens of straw and thatch huts over the years, including this one.

J Pessoa/Survival International


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J Pessoa/Survival International


Man built dozens of straw and thatch huts over the years, including this one.

J Pessoa/Survival International

In the wake of the man’s death, environmental activists are calling for the reserve to be permanently preserved as a monument to indigenous genocide.

One such group is the Human Rights Observatory of Uncontacted and Recently Contacted Peoples (OPI). In a sentenceHe also asked that the man’s body be respected and quickly returned to the indigenous territory, and that the property remain closed until the archaeological and anthropological studies are carried out.

The nearly 20,000-acre reserve is one of seven Brazilian territories protected by Land Protection Orders, which President Jair Bolsonaro has long campaign to abolish. Bolsonaro, who is running for re-election in October, argues that indigenous Brazilians own too much land.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said earlier this month that the Brazilian government has adopted policies that “seriously threaten” the rights of indigenous peoples.

Invasions and illegal extraction of natural resources on Brazil’s protected indigenous lands have tripled since Bolsonaro took office in 2019. according to the report released over the weekend by the Missionary Indigenous Council (CIMI). The Christian Advocacy Group It said 305 such incidents occurred in 2021, compared to 109 in 2018.

It is in this context that a record 181 candidates who identify as indigenous are campaigning in Brazil’s upcoming elections, and Bolsonaro’s main opponent, former left-wing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has promised stop illegal mining on indigenous land if elected.

Survival International’s Watson explicitly linked the man’s death to the policies of the Bolsonaro government in his statement on Sunday, warning that other indigenous tribes remain at serious risk:

“If President Bolsonaro and his allies in agribusiness have their way, this story will repeat itself over and over again until every indigenous people in the country is annihilated.”

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