'Man of the Hole' Dies, Rendering a Tribe Extinct

Last surviving member of Indigenous tribe in Brazil had been tracked for decades
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 29, 2022 6:30 AM CDT
Updated Sep 3, 2022 5:15 PM CDT

No one will be bothering the "Man of the Hole" anymore. Officials from Funai, Brazil's Indigenous protection agency, say the last surviving member of a native tribe who'd been tracked for years has died, leaving his tribe officially extinct, reports the BBC. The body of the man, believed to be about 60 years old, was found Tuesday by Funai officials in a hammock outside of his straw hut in the state of Rondonia, with "no signs of struggle, violence, or the presence of other people in the area," per CNN. Officials believe he died of natural causes, and they say he had brightly colored feathers placed around his body, indicating he may have known he was going to die, per the Guardian.

The man had gone it solo on Tanaru Indigenous land in the Amazon rainforest for more than a quarter century, after six of his fellow tribe members were killed in 1995. Most of the rest of the tribe was thought to have been slaughtered in the 1970s, when ranchers wanted to stretch their own land further into Indigenous territory. In 2018, Funai staffers managed to capture video of the man trying to cut away at a tree with a tool resembling an ax, his last official sighting. After that encounter, however, officials would continue to stumble across his huts and the deep holes he'd dug, which were believed to be both animal traps and hiding places, thus earning him his nickname. The man wasn't receptive to outsiders, shooting arrows at anyone who approached.

Funai officials did leave food, seeds, and tools out for him, though, and keep tabs on him for his own safety for decades. But the man wouldn't accept those gifts, likely for good reason: Funai officials say that in the '80s, ranchers left "offerings" of rat poison that killed many in his tribe. "With his death, the genocide of his people is complete," Fiona Watson of the human rights group Survival International tells CNN. "For this was indeed a genocide—the deliberate wiping out of an entire people by cattle ranchers hungry for land and wealth." Police are conducting an investigation into the man's death. Close to 300 Indigenous tribes are believed to remain in Brazil, with about 30 of them thought to live deep in the rainforest. (More Indigenous peoples stories.)

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