The Last Indian: Amazonian Ishi

In 1911, the last uncontacted North American Indian — Ishi of the Yahi tribe — left the California wilderness and walked into bustling civilization.  His remarkable story was told by Theodora Kroeber (wife of the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber) in her compelling biography, Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild North American Indian.

Kroeber and Ishi

In 2010, there remains an uncontacted South American Indian — name unknown —  living in the Amazonian wilderness.  Although Brazilian authorities have attempted contact, they have been unsuccessful.  They have seen the man, now in his 40s, and regularly come across his huts — which strangely always have a large hole dug in them.  No one knows why.

Slate’s Monte Reel reports on “The Most Isolated Man on the Planet“:

He eats mostly wild game, which he either hunts with his bow-and-arrow or traps in spiked-bottom pitfalls. He grows a few crops around his huts, including corn and manioc, and often collects honey from hives that stingless bees construct in the hollows of tree trunks.

Some of the markings he makes on trees have suggested to indigenous experts that he maintains a spiritual life, which they’ve speculated might help him survive the psychological impact of being, to a certain extent, the last man standing in a world of one.

I sincerely hope the spirits keep him good company, and wonder whether the large and deep (5′) holes he digs in the floors of his huts are symbolic attempts to contact the under or spirit world, in the sad hope that his lost relatives and friends might incarnate and join him.

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