Known as the “Man of the Hole,” the last member of an Indigenous group was found dead this month, marking the first recorded disappearance of an isolated tribe in the country.
By Flávia Milhorance and André Spigariol
Aug. 29, 2022
RIO DE JANEIRO — When officials from Brazil’s Indigenous protection agency approached the hut in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, their fears were confirmed: They were witnessing the first recorded disappearance of an uncontacted tribe in the country’s history.
The man lying in the hammock, the last member of his tribe, had died, and with him an entire culture and answers to a thousand questions.
Even his name was a mystery. He was known only as “the Man of the Hole” because of the dozens of holes he had dug over the years in his territory. His age, too, could only be guessed at. He appeared to be about 60, officials said.
It was a sad milestone for a country that in recent years has seen protections for Indigenous groups weakened and undermined by an administration that has prioritized development of the Amazon over conservation.
Officials from Brazil’s Indigenous protection agency, Funai, found the man’s body on Aug. 23 during a patrol in the Tanaru Indigenous Territory, in the state of Rondônia, bordering Bolivia.
The death was most likely the result of natural causes, Funai said in a statement released on Saturday. The agency brought in criminal experts to examine the site and then sent the man’s body to the capital, Brasília, for an autopsy.
A Funai official who was not authorized to speak on the record said the agency would also run DNA tests and then return the body to the forest to be buried.
The man’s body was covered in feathers, according to Marcelo dos Santos, an Indigenous expert, who saw a photo of the remains.