This man is the last surviving member of an uncontacted tribe in a remote corner of Brazil's rainforest. The outside world has no idea of his name, his language, his culture, or most of his story. However, he could be heading towards grave danger.
The footage of “the most isolated man on the planet” was filmed deep in the rainforest of the western Brazilian state of Rondônia in 2011. It shows a long-haired man, estimated to be in his 50s, hacking at a tree with a sharp tool while the sounds of the rainforest trickle and tweet around him. The video was recently released by FUNAI, the Brazilian government's indigenous affairs department, in order to highlight the ongoing struggle between uncontacted people and the unflinching growth of powerful agribusiness.
Until now, just a single blurry image of him existed.
FUNAI has been keeping an eye on this man from afar for 22 years. They confirmed his existence in 1996 following reports by local loggers of a lone tribesman stalking the rainforest.
He’s known as the “Last of his Tribe” because he has roamed the Amazon rainforest by himself ever since his tribe was slaughtered. During the 1970s and 1980s, a series of massacres by gunmen hired by ranchers decimated his tribe, as well as many other surrounding groups. By the mid-1990s, he was the last one left.
Since he has avoided all opportunities to “make contact” with outsiders, much of what we know about him has been gathered from his abandoned campsites (image below). Here, activists have found that he grows corn, maniocs, papayas, and bananas. They also discovered 2-meter (6.6-foot)-deep pits with spikes at the bottom, designed to catch animals to eat.
The man was given a small area of protected land that was off-limits to people and development during the 2000s, however, this hasn’t stopped his plight. In 2009, the man was shot at by gunmen. Authorities believe he was actively targeted by people with links to agribusiness in order to take him out and get rid of the protection order on the land. Now, completely encircled by cattle farms and with developers hungry for more land, the future of his “safe zone” is looking more and more uncertain, especially as political tensions are due to rise in the run-up to Brazil’s presidential elections in October.
“Uncontacted tribes aren’t primitive relics of a remote past. They live in the here and now. They are our contemporaries and a vital part of humankind’s diversity, but face catastrophe unless their land is protected,” Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, said in a statement.