Death of the last native of a vanished tribe

Death of the last native of a vanished tribe

A man who had lived in self-isolation for nearly three decades in the Brazilian Amazon has been found dead, authorities said. He was the presumed last survivor of a now extinct indigenous community.

Known as the ‘Tanaru Indian’, he was found dead on August 23 in a Tanaru indigenous mud hut, the Brazilian government’s agency for indigenous affairs, Funai, announced over the weekend. He was also known as ‘Indio do buraco’ (‘Indian of the hole’) because of his habit of digging deep holes in the huts where he lived.

According to the NGO Survival, the indigenous land Tanaru, in the state of Rondonia, on the border with Bolivia, is an island of jungle surrounded by vast cattle ranches, in one of the most dangerous regions of Brazil, mainly due to illegal mining and deforestation.

Authorities did not say the man’s age or cause of death but said they saw “no signs of violence or struggle”. “Everything indicates that the death was due to natural causes,” Funai said in a statement, adding that it found no evidence of the presence of other people at the scene.

‘End of a genocide’

Authorities believe the man spent 26 years alone wandering the jungle after members of his already tiny community slowly disappeared in the mid-1990s when loggers and ranchers took over the surrounding land.

‘With his death, this is the end of the genocide of these indigenous people,’ said Fiona Watson, research director at Survival, who visited Tanaru territory in 2004. ‘It was true genocide, the deliberate elimination of an entire people by cattle herders hungry for land and wealth,” she said.

According to Funai, the presence of isolated indigenous groups in Brazil, without contact with the rest of the world, has been detected in 114 different places. An assessment that varies, however, according to the reports.

According to the 2010 census, more than 800,000 people claim to be indigenous to Brazil, a huge country of 212 million inhabitants. More than half of them live in the Amazon and many are threatened by the illegal and large-scale exploitation of the natural resources on which they depend for their survival.


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