If strangers with loud weapons and unfamiliar clothes killed everyone you ever knew, you might be reluctant to meet new people.
Brazil’s government says that’s likely why the last member of an isolated Amazon tribe has rejected its attempts to make contact, opting instead to live alone in the forest for the last two decades.
New footage of the man surfaced this week from Funai, Brazil’s National Indian Foundation, which oversees the protection of the country’s uncontacted tribes. The footage, which was captured by an expedition team, shows the man chopping wood with an axe.
Altair Algayer, who runs one of Funai’s expedition teams, says the man has proven everyone wrong by staying alive all these years.
“It is possible to survive and resist allying with society,” Algayer said in a release on Funai’s website.
“I think he’s way better than if he had made contact.”
A tragic history
The so-called “Man of the Hole” — whose real name remains unknown — is thought to be the only survivor of an uncontacted Indigenous group that was wiped out by loggers and farmers in the 1980s and ’90s. He now lives in a government-protected area of forest along the Tanaru River, where he hunts and farms to survive.
Observers have named him the Man of the Hole for the deep burrows he digs in the ground, which are thought to be used for shelter or hunting.
Funai says the Man of the Hole, who is likely in his 50s, has been living alone since 1995, when the last five members of his tribe were killed in a farmer attack.
Funai made several attempts to contact him in the ’90s and ’00s, but the agency says it gave up after he made it clear in 2005 that contact “was not his will.”
Now, Funai simply keeps an eye on the Man of the Hole’s movements and makes sure the forest around him remains protected. It also occasionally leaves him tools and seeds to help him get by.
Why officials do not contact him
Brazil’s forests are home to more than 100 uncontacted Indigenous tribes, and the country’s government tries to keep it that way.
The activist group Survival International says outsiders present a real threat to these uncontacted tribes because they threaten to steal their land and can unknowingly spread disease.
“Very little is known about these peoples,” Survival International writes on its website.
“What we do know is that they wish to remain uncontacted. They have shot arrows at outsiders and airplanes, or they simply avoid contact by hiding deep in the forest.”
All Indigenous people have the right to their own society, culture, language, beliefs and traditional lands under Brazil’s Constitution. The Constitution also requires the government to ensure those lands and rights are protected.
WATCH BELOW: Amazon tribe emerges from the forest in 2014
Funai’s official policy is to leave these Indigenous tribes alone, unless their survival appears to be at risk.
Funai deemed the Man of the Hole’s survival to be at risk in 1996, prompting it to make its first attempt at contact.
The agency has since given up on those efforts and gone back to protecting the Man of the Hole and his way of life.
“It is incumbent upon Funai… to guarantee to the isolated peoples the full exercise of their freedom and their traditional activities,” Funai says.