The last uncontacted man was found lying in a hammock, his body covered with feathers. No one knew his name or the language he once spoke. Now, no one will ever know, as he was the last surviving member of his tribe.
The death of a man in his sixties in the Amazon, referred to as “the man of the hole”, is a sad milestone in the effort to protect the last uncontacted tribes in Brazil from the relentless encroachment of the modern world.
The death of “the man of the hole” is particularly poignant, as it is the first time the death of the final surviving member of a tribe has been documented. He was from an “uncontacted” tribe, a term which can be misleading.
“He lived on “an island of forest in the middle of deforestation”Said Ivaneide Bandeira Cardozo, who leads a group dedicated to protecting the forest and those who live within it.
“They choose to withdraw for their survival,”Leonardo Lenin Santos, from Brazil’s observatory for the human rights of uncontacted and recently contacted indigenous peoples.
That was the case with the man of the hole, whose relatives are all believed to have been massacred in the 1980s by farmers, leaving him, then in his twenties, to spend the rest of his life alone.
When Portuguese explorers arrived 500 years ago, in what they later named Terra do Brasil, there were several thousand tribes, perhaps three to four million people, living across the South American territory.
Today, about 790 of those indigenous tribes still exist. Many became extinct as the result of disease brought by the colonialists, extermination or inter-tribal war.
Others were “de-tribalised”, meaning they were assimilated without trace into the general Brazilian population.
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