Lone sur­vivor of tribe seen in jun­gle, healthy and at work

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Nation & World - BY ERNESTO LONDOÑO New York Times

The lone sur­vivor of an iso­lated tribe in the Brazil­ian Ama­zon, mon­i­tored and as­sisted from afar by the gov­ern­ment for decades, looks healthy in a rare new video re­leased last week, which shows him swing­ing an ax at a tree.

An­thro­pol­o­gists say the man, who is be­lieved to be in his 50s, has lived on his own in the jun­gle in Rondô­nia state since other mem­bers of his tribe died in the 1990s, prob­a­bly killed by ranch­ers.

He has be­come a sym­bol of the re­silience of the more than 100 iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties es­ti­mated to sur­vive in re­mote parts of Brazil, un­der pres­sure as farm­ers, min­ers and log­gers push fur­ther into the Ama­zon jun­gle.

The Na­tional In­dian Foun­da­tion, or FUNAI, a gov­ern­ment agency that sup­ports indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, tried to es­tab­lish con­tact with the man a few times, start­ing in 1996.

But he has re­sponded to out­siders with hos­til­ity. In 2005, he wounded a FUNAI of­fi­cial by fir­ing an ar­row.

Since then, the gov­ern­ment has cho­sen to help the mys­te­ri­ous man from afar, leav­ing tools and seeds for him to grow crops, and seek­ing to keep in­vaders from his habi­tat, which is a pro­tected indige­nous ter­ri­tory.

FUNAI recorded the man at a dis­tance in the new video. Videos such as these are made to jus­tify the le­gal and reg­u­la­tory pro­tec­tions that are ex­tended to indige­nous ter­ri­to­ries.

Al­tair Al­gayer, a FUNAI of­fi­cial who has been in­volved in mon­i­tor­ing the man and safe­guard­ing his ter­ri­tory, said he has mar­veled at the sur­vivor’s de­ter­mi­na­tion.

“This man, who is a mys­tery to us, has lost ev­ery­thing, his peo­ple, a se­ries of cul­tural prac­tices,” Al­gayer said in a state­ment. “Yet, he has proven that, de­spite be­ing all alone in the jun­gle, it’s pos­si­ble to sur­vive and re­sist join­ing main­stream so­ci­ety.”

For decades, an­thro­pol­o­gists and indige­nous ac­tivists have de­bated whether they should seek to es­tab­lish con­tact with iso­lated tribes to vac­ci­nate them against dis­eases that could quickly wipe out iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties.

Since the late 1980s, the Brazil­ian gov­ern­ment has sought to con­tact iso­lated tribes only if it be­lieves they are in im­mi­nent dan­ger.

Fiona Wat­son, the re­search and ad­vo­cacy direc­tor at Sur­vival In­ter­na­tional, a group that ad­vo­cates for the pro­tec­tion of iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties, said she hopes the new video will bol­ster ef­forts to shield indige­nous ter­ri­to­ries.

“He looks healthy, which is very en­cour­ag­ing,” she said. “He has sur­vived this long in a very vi­o­lent fron­tier re­gion of the Ama­zon.”

Brazil’s Na­tional In­dian Foun­da­tion

An­thro­pol­o­gists say the sole sur­vivor of a tribe in the Ama­zon jun­gle ap­pears to be healthy in a new video re­leased last week. The man, thought to be in his 50s, has lived on his own since other tribe mem­bers died in the 1990s, prob­a­bly killed by...

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