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Indio Tanaru

Occasionally a news article will grip your imagination so intensely that it takes up all the space in your brain. This morning, I read about an Indio Tanaru called the Man in the Hole and I cannot stop thinking about him.

He was the last of an indigenous tribe in Brazil and resisted contact with other humans. He grew his own crops. Nobody knew his name or what language he spoke. The Brazilian government kept an eye on him from far while he stayed true to his mission with no contact with others. He died of natural causes and was found in a hammock near his hut.

Like the Akuntsu and Kanoê people, the Man in the Hole's tribe faced unfathomable catastrophe when settlers arrived on their land between 1970s-90s and annihilated them in a genocide. The irony is that Brazil's constitution guarantees indigenous people access to lands they occupy, but if you occupy their lands then nothing holds you back from wiping them out.

Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI), Brazil's agency for indigenous people kept a close eye on the Man in the Hole and made sure there were no intrusions into his space. Despite this, gunmen shot at him in 2009. Fortunately, the Man in the Hole escaped.

FUNAI agents left him food and gifts to build trust. Even though he did not entertain close encounters, he was known to warn the FUNAI teams of dangers. He moved frequently and left a deep hole near each hut he lived in, hence his name. He may have trapped animals in the hole or used the hole to keep himself safe.

FUNAI estimates that the Man in the Hole died in July 2022 and was found the next month. He was laying in his hammock adorned by macaw feathers, perhaps awaiting death.

The real tragedy of the story is that the Brazilian government will now conduct an autopsy to study the Man in the Hole. Isn't that a complete violation of everything he fought for? The Brazilians should bury him exactly where and how they found him without desecrating him in any way shape or form.

Indigenous people who can survive on their own, without contact with "civilization" deserve our our highest reverence, the kind we reserve for the divine. May the Man in the Hole find peace as he rejoices with his people in the great beyond.

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