“Man of the Hole” dies, completing a decades-long genocide

  Recently, a native man indigenous to the Brazilian Amazon was found dead by the Fundação Nacional do Índio (Funai), a Brazilian indigenous conservation agency. He had no known name and was simply referred to as Índio do Buraco, or “Man of the Hole” since he had been observed to have made dozens of holes over the years he spent in isolation. He is thought to be the last member of an unidentified indigenous tribe that lived in the Amazon. 

He is the last of his tribe because over the decades his tribe had faced numerous attacks by non-indigenous peoples who intended to kick them off of their land for agricultural use. According to Survival International, a London-based human rights organization, the earliest reports state that the tribe first came into contact with non-natives back in the 1970s due to attacks by illegal ranchers as well as rumors of them also being given poisoned sugar. Only roughly six survived until they were attacked again somewhere in the 1990s by gunmen, and none survived except the Man of the Hole. However, it wouldn’t be until 1996 that Funai would make contact with the sole survivor for the first time. “What happened to his people was a genocide,” says Marcelo dos Santos, a retired explorer. “It shows we are failing as a society.”

A photo frame from footage of the “Man of the Hole” taken back in 2011 by Brazil’s Indian Foundation in the forest of Rodinia. (Photo provided by Brazil’s National Indian Foundation via AP)

Santos, who led the expedition that first came into contact with the man, said that when he was approached, he was found hiding in his hut. “We traveled the region to find his house where he was taking refuge,” recalled Santos. “We tried to establish a conversation and offered corn and arrows, but he was terrified and very aggressive. From this moment on, we had to respect his isolation.” “He didn’t trust anyone because he had many traumatizing experiences with non-Indigenous people.” However, despite initial hostility, Funai officials still kept an eye on the man, occasionally offering supplies, and even fencing off the area from any loggers and ranchers to officially create the Tanaru reserve.

Despite this, the surrounding area continued to suffer from heavy deforestation. “As you are driving to the Tanaru territory where the man lived, what struck me was how completely denuded of trees it was, with massive cattle ranching areas,” said Fiona Watson, a research director at Survival International. Moreover, in 2009, armed gunmen even managed to sneak into the Man of the Hole’s territory and attack him, luckily, he survived. 

Over the 26 years that the man spent in isolation, he built numerous campsites that he lived in, each equipped with a hut made of straw and thatch. Every time he would abandon a hut and move on to another location, he would dig a hole in the middle of the interior of the house, leading some experts to speculate that maybe along with trapping animals for food, they could have also had a symbolic purpose. He had also been known to plant corn, manioc, bananas, and papayas, as well as feed off of wild berries and honey. It was confirmed that the man had died on August 23, 2022, when a Funai official found his body to be in a state of decomposition in his 53rd recorded house. The man was found lying in a hammock with feathers covering his body, leading the official to believe that he might have been expecting death. He was estimated to have been around 60 years old at the time of his death, which is most likely due to natural causes.

A Funai official stated that the body will be sent to the country’s capital, Brasília, for an official autopsy report before it will be returned to the forest to be buried. The Man of the Hole’s death comes at an especially sad time when Brazil’s current president, Jair Bolsonaro, has recently been passing many policies that threaten the livelihood of many of the country’s native tribes. He’s loosened regulations for logging, ranching, and mining industries to operate in the Amazon as well as getting rid of protections for indigenous lands from these industries. According to the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), the number of illegal invasions and destruction of protected indigenous lands have tripled ever since Bolsonaro took office in 2019, with about 305 incidents taking place in 2021 alone compared to 109 back in 2018. “If President Bolsonaro and his agribusiness allies get their way, this story will be repeated over and over again until all the country’s Indigenous peoples are wiped out,” stated Watson. 

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/28/amazon-activists-mourn-death-of-man-of-the-h   ole-last-of-his-tribe?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

https://www.npr.org/2022/08/30/1119939392/last-member-uncontacted-tribe-dies-brazil

One thought on ““Man of the Hole” dies, completing a decades-long genocide

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s