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The last member of a besieged Indigenous tribe in Brazil has died


This story takes us to the western Amazon, to one of the most remote parts of Brazil. Deep in the rainforest is an officially designated area called the Tanaru Indigenous Territory. We have now learned that the last known inhabitant of that territory has died. Researcher Fiona Watson has followed what little is known of him.

FIONA WATSON: We don't know what his name was. We don't know what language he spoke, nor the name of his tribe.

MARTIN: And Watson says that's the point. She works for Survival International, which advocates for Indigenous people who refuse contact with outsiders.


That's why we know so little, although it is thought that he was about 60 when he died of what appear to be natural causes.

WATSON: He was living and continued to live by hunting and gathering and growing vegetables and fruits in his garden - so living completely sustainably and self-sufficiently off his land.

INSKEEP: Watson believes he was alone because his tribe suffered repeated massacres at the hands of ranchers and hired gunmen.

WATSON: It's just unimaginable what this man has gone through, living totally on his own with nobody to talk to, no human company, with all those terrible memories of the massacres.

MARTIN: Watson says he was known as the Man of the Hole because he dug deep holes to hide in and trap animals. His story, though, is not unique. Survival International calculates that there are over 100 uncontacted tribes around the world, most of them in the Amazon basin.

WATSON: Their decision to be uncontacted is taken, I think, with a great deal of experience and wisdom. Many of these peoples will be survivors from attacks decades ago, or if not 100 years ago. So this intense desire, like the Man of the Hole had, to remain uncontacted, to be alone and to get on with their lives themselves is born, I think, of that fear and that knowledge.

INSKEEP: Here's what makes Watson want to advocate for them.

WATSON: Indigenous peoples, tribal peoples, uncontacted tribes are part of our planet's really rich, vibrant human diversity, and they show us what it means to be different. You know, everybody has that right to live their life and be different. And with his passing, I really feel we have lost one piece of that huge diversity.

INSKEEP: The Man of the Hole is believed to have prepared for his own death. His body was found covered in colorful feathers. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.