The Last of the Hiding Tribes

This three part series, made in 1999 as the millennium drew to an end, looks at the effects of the globalization on indigenous peoples. As the modern world moves inexorably forward, the few isolated peoples that have led a peaceful existence in the depths of the rainforests of the world are threatened. This series looks at what happens when first contact is made, not only by trained anthropologists, but also by illegal loggers or impoverished migrant farmers. In Brazil, contact has led to the extinction of about a third of all indigenous tribes. Each programme focuses on the history of one tribe – what happened to them and their lands.


The Villas Boas brothers first attempted to make contact with the Panará (then known as the Kreen-Akrore) back in the mid-1960s. Their unsuccessful expedition to find the Panará was the subject of The Tribe That Hides from Man. Soon after the expedition was abandoned the BR163 road went through their territory and the Panará began getting sick. It is thought that 80% of the tribe died. Desperate, they turned to Claudio Villas Boas who had made repeated attempts to contact them. The whole tribe was moved to the Xingu National Park where the tribe began to recover. In 1997 the Panará were granted a section of their former territory on the River Iriri where the returned.


This film returns to the Uru Eu Wau Wau and the story of the kidnapped settler’s son, seven year old Chico Prestes. By 1996 the story of the kidnapping had become national issue. The Brazilian State Congress voted that an attempt should be made to resolve the situation. This was fueled by reports of a ‘white’ Indian being seen in the region. The story then moves through unexpected twists and turns. The fate of Fabio is revealed as is the possible reason for his kidnap. Tari, the Uru Eu Wau Wau leader who kidnapped Fabio, talked of how his own sister had been kidnapped by a Brazilian man. Cowell found the description of the attack familiar. He recalled that he and his crew had filmed a rubber tapper, Alfredo, who had kidnapped an Indian girl and called her Marie. Later he had a family with her. Alfredo’s description of the attack matched that of Tari’s. Soon after, the brother and sister were reunited.


Plans to build a dam on the River Tocantins, spurred the Indian Foundations Department for Unknown Peoples to launch an expedition to make contact with the Ava-Canoeiro. Once the dam was built, the tribe’s lands would be flooded. This film reveals the tragic events that led to the Ava-Canoeiros abandoning their villages in the 1960s after a horrific massacre. A small group of one man and three women had lived in caves for twenty years until befriended by a local farmer from whom they had been stealing. Although Iawi, the man, is married to one of the women and has a son and a daughter, unless they can find the larger group of hiding Ava-canoeiros, there will be no one for his children to marry and the tribe will die out.

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