Monday, January 14, 2008

And Then There Was One

The Washington Post has a story up that just fascinates me.
And Then There Was One
Discovery of a lone survivor of an unknown Indian tribe in Brazil set off accusations of murder and a struggle over ownership of one of the world's last great wilderness areas

By Monte Reel
Sunday, January 13, 2008; W12

THe Rumor Was A Wild One, and it seized Marcelo dos Santos with the power of a primary myth.

There's an Indian living in the woods around here, some local ranch hands were saying in 1996. He wears no clothes. Get near him, and he vanishes. He is utterly alone.

Marcelo knew a lot about elusive Indians -- more than just about anyone. He was a sertanista, a uniquely Brazilian profession that is part jungle explorer, part ethnologist and part bureaucrat. As a member of Funai -- the Brazilian government agency charged with protecting indigenous interests and cultures -- Marcelo's specialty was "uncontacted" Indians, those tribes that remain isolated from modern man. His territory was Rondonia, a heavily forested area that had been largely undeveloped before the government declared it a state and opened it to agriculture in the early 1980s. After that, loggers and ranchers began streaming in, and Marcelo blamed them for the denuded pastureland that was eating into the forest from all sides.

Just a few months earlier, Marcelo and his tracking partner Altair Algayer had made first contact with an isolated tribe of Kanoe Indians that had been reduced to five survivors. Shortly after that, they found another tribe, the Akuntsu, with only six members living several miles from the Kanoe. They'd gotten the land for those tribes declared off-limits to development. And for that, the loggers and ranchers who wanted a piece of that land for themselves viewed Marcelo and Altair just as suspiciously as those two viewed the loggers and ranchers.

But this rumor, of a single Indian on his own in the jungle, was too compelling to ignore, even if it meant spending time among the kind of people that Funai explorers generally tried to avoid.

The rumor's trail led to a logging operation near a cattle ranch. Marcelo and Altair, careful to sneak past the boss, found the company cook.

There is an amazing video accompanying the story that I can't figure out how to embed so you will have to watch it here. I used the graphic showing the location at the top of this post.

Read the story. Watch the video. Wow.

1 comment:

  1. How heartbreaking, the last man standing.
    Poor SOB was probably scared half to death with all these strange guy's showing up out of nowhere.
    All alone, no friends, relatives, shit, he didn't even have a dog.
    Fascinating, but just so, sad.