Footage of the world's most isolated man, who has lived in a hole in the Brazilian jungle since the eradication of his tribe, was captured by a government NGO this week.
“We don’t know who he is, the name of his tribe or what language he speaks,” say Survival International, the world’s only organization dedicated to protecting tribal people. “His people were probably massacred by cattle ranchers who are invading the region at breakneck speed.”
As the first footage of the world’s most isolated man emerges, what does it mean for the privacy of the only person who’s lived alone in an Amazon forest for at least the past 22 years? Captured by FUNAI, a Brazilian government body that oversees issues surrounding indigenous people, the 22-second clip shows the man swinging an ax at a tree, then walking off into the dense jungle.
Nicknamed the “indigenous man in the hole,” he first came under the authority’s radar in 1996. Since then, the only sign of the man’s whereabouts are his signature hunting holes, filled with sharpened sticks. “He does not talk to anyone, he ignores his language and the people he belonged to,” the Brazilian version of the newspaper El Pais has reported.
Thought to be around 50 years old, he’s the last survivor of a tribe thought to be killed by cattle ranchers in 1995. After enduring the violence and destruction that wiped out the rest of his tribe, the indigenous man in the hole just wants to be left in solitude. “I understand his decision,” said a member of FUNAI. “It is his sign of resistance, and a little repudiation, hate, knowing the story he went through.”
Unknowingly living under the protection of the FUNAI, government workers constantly defended the isolated man from becoming an unwilling player in game of cat and mouse between ruthless, gun-wielding farmers and a man with no friends, family or any possession bigger than the axes the FUNAI leave for him in and around his territory.
The lack of contact isn’t just a respectful decision on behalf of those trying to secure the rights of indigenous peoples. The indigenous man in the hole has repeatedly shown hostility to any outsider who’s tried to make contact. In 2004, he shot an arrow at a FUNAI employee. Since then he’s been left to roam in 8,070 hectares of protected forest, but if he steps beyond those borders he’ll likely come face to face with the ranches and farms that now entirely surround him.