Friday, December 11, 2009

At What Price? The Man of the Hole

One of the only known images of the 'Man of the Hole', taken by filmaker Vincent Carelli. Look closely.

“The love of money is the root of all evil”. Truer words were never written. People will commit the most heartless acts if they feel they will benefit financially. Unfortunately, while money is a necessary evil in our world today; the love of money will continue to claim lives.

This incident took place last month in Tanarú, an indigenous territory in the Amazon state of Rondônia, Brazil; but, the news has only just emerged.

There are only a few tribes remaining in the Amazon that remain uncontacted. One tribe has only one sole survivor. The two times he has been “contacted” by outsiders were very brief and fatal.

Little is known about this solitary man; but, it is believed that when his tribe was first “contacted” by outsiders – in this case ranchers -sometime in the 1970s or 1980s at which time they were all massacred. All, that is, except him.

Since the extermination of the rest of his tribe, the man has been living in a small hut on his native land. He grows his own vegetables and hunts for meat as his ancestors did before him.

He is called the “man of the hole” because of the holes he digs everywhere for animal entrapment and personal concealment. The holes he digs for animal entrapment are lined with sharpened stakes pointing upward; and, his personal concealment holes give him the element of surprise against his attackers.

He obviously wants to be left alone as he hides everytime anyone approaches him. Not surprising since his only previous contact with strangers cost him his tribe, his family, his friends; and, shattered his entire world as he knew it. There is a real possibility that he is also the only person left on earth that speaks his language; so, verbal communication may not even be an option for him.

FUNAI, Brazil’s Indian Affairs Department, has oversight of the land on which he lives and protects it for the lonely tribesman. Unfortunately, in one of their trips to check up on the man, they have discovered that he has had a second “contact” with outsiders.

That “contact” consisted of surrounding ranchers shooting at the man in an effort to remove him from his land; or, possibly even kill him. These local ranchers oppose the government’s protection of the man and his land. They want him off the land and; obviously, believe in self-help.

The 'Man of the Hole's' house and garden where he grows manioc and other vegetables © J.Pessoa. Photo courtesy: Survival.

Why would local ranchers try to kill what has to be the loneliest, most harmless man on the face of the planet? In a word – Greed. It all goes back to the original reason the tribe was slaughtered. This land is surrounded by cattle ranches and soy bean plantations. The ranchers’ land would become more profitable if they could obtain the “Man of the Hole’s” land.

The extent of the attack is not known as yet; but, spent shotgun shell casings in the area have FUNAI officials very concerned. "This is a serious situation. The Indian's life is being put in danger by the interests of the ranchers," said FUNAI's Altair Algayer.

Despite the attack, the officials believe the “Man of the Hole” is likely still alive, while the perpetrators remain at large.

Survival is a group committed to preserving the rights of indigenous tribes and the group's director, Stephen Corry, says, “His tribe has been massacred and now the “Man of the Hole” faces the same fate. The ranchers must allow this man to live out his last days in peace on his own land, and the authorities must do all they can to protect it.”

The disturbing implications of the attack on the tribesman, who is guilty of nothing more than having land the surrounding farmers and ranchers want, reflect on the precarious state of the Amazon itself.

The 'Man of the Hole', in many ways, offers a face to a region threatened by encroaching development and deforestation from ranchers and farmers. As sickening and cowardly as this attack has been, we must not forget this is the result of large-scale attack being waged against the forests these few remaining tribes people call home.

Check this list to send a letter of protest to the Brazilian government. Let them know that none of your tourism dollars will be spent in Brazil unless the people responsible for this act of terrorism against a defenseless man are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

"Man of the Hole" on film captured by filmaker Vincent Carelli. You need to watch the bottom third of the screen closely to see the "Man of the Hole". He is very well camoflagued.

This video shows his hut and some of his belongings. FUNAI checks on him occasionally to determine how he is doing. He had left this hut for a time and the team took the opportunity to make a short video.

Via TreeHugger and Survival

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