Brazilian authorities have released remarkably clear footage of the last surviving indigenous member of an uncontacted tribe in the Brazilian Amazon.
The video, which was taken at a distance by workers at the Brazilian indigenous agency FUNAI, shows the man, estimated to be in his 50s, in good health as he swings an ax at a tree.
Nicknamed the "man of the hole," the man is believed to be the lone survivor of his tribe after land-grabbing cattle ranchers murdered everyone else in 1995.
The Man Of The Hole
Altair Algayer, the regional coordinator for FUNAI in the Amazonian state of Rondōnia, says the man is "very well." He uses a bow and arrow to hunt wild pigs, monkeys, and birds and keeps a plantation of papaya and corn.
The man of the hole got his moniker for digging huge holes, where he plants wooden staves to trap prey. His abandoned house is built of straw and thatch and also has a hole 6 feet deep under his hammock. FUNAI workers also found carved arrowheads, calabashes, dried nuts, and a torch made from resin inside the house.
The man is believed to have survived an attack by farmers in a group of six in 1995. FUNAI tried to contact the man to no avail. He even shot an arrow as a warning at one FUNAI worker.
"I understand his decision," Algayer says. "It is his sign of resistance, and a little repudiation, hate, knowing the story he went through."
FUNAI has a policy of avoiding contact with isolated tribes. In 2005, the agency decided to stop attempting to contact the man but increased the size of his territory by 3,000 hectares. FUNAI also leaves axes, machetes, and seeds planted by indigenous tribes in places where the man can find them.
The Brazilian government created the indigenous reserve of Tanaru in 2015 specifically to protect uncontacted tribes in the area. The reserve consists of 8,070 hectares of protected rainforest surrounded by farms and ranches.
"FUNAI has a duty to show that he is well and alive," says Fiona Watson, research and advocacy director at Survival International, a non-profit group that aims to protect isolated tribes. "The crucial thing is FUNAI has managed to keep his territory. "
Isolated Tribes In The Amazon
Authorities believe there are as many as 113 uncontacted tribes in the Brazilian portion of the Amazon, 27 of which have already been confirmed. There are also 15 tribes said to exist in Peru and others in Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador.
Some of these are hunter-gatherer tribes, such as the Awá people in the eastern side of the Amazon. Like the man of the hole, they live in rainforest oases surrounded by farmlands. Others, such as those in the western borders, plant corn, potatoes, and other crops.
In the 1970s to the 1980s, indigenous tribes in the Amazon suffered from a murderous encroachment of farmers, loggers, and land-grabbers. Watson has spoken with some of the survivors, who said farmers shot at them as they fled their villages during the raids.
Some tribes, such as those near the Peru border, deserted their homes after rubber barons enslaved some of their members a century ago. They have avoided contact with mainstream society since then.