The Last of the Tribe
The Epic Quest to Save a Lone Man in the Amazon
By Monte Reel
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9781416594741, 288pp.)
Publication Date: June 15, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
Throughout the centuries, the Amazon has yielded many of its secrets, but it still holds a few great mysteries. In 1996 experts got their first glimpse of one: a lone Indian, a tribe of one, hidden in the forests of southwestern Brazil. Previously uncontacted tribes are extremely rare, but a one-man tribe was unprecedented. And like all of the isolated tribes in the Amazonian frontier, he was in danger.
Resentment of Indians can run high among settlers, and the consequences can be fatal. The discovery of the Indian prevented local ranchers from seizing his land, and led a small group of men who believed that he was the last of a murdered tribe to dedicate themselves to protecting him. These men worked for the government, overseeing indigenous interests in an odd job that was part Indiana Jones, part social worker, and were among the most experienced adventurers in the Amazon. They were a motley crew that included a rebel who spent more than a decade living with a tribe, a young man who left home to work in the forest at age fourteen, and an old-school sertanista with a collection of tall tales amassed over five decades of jungle exploration.
Their quest would prove far more difficult than any of them could imagine. Over the course of a decade, the struggle to save the Indian and his land would pit them against businessmen, politicians, and even the Indian himself, a man resolved to keep the outside world at bay at any cost. It would take them into the furthest reaches of the forest and to the halls of Brazil’s Congress, threatening their jobs and even their lives. Ensuring the future of the Indian and his land would lead straight to the heart of the conflict over the Amazon itself.
A heart-pounding modern-day adventure set in one of the world’s last truly wild places, The Last of the Tribe is a riveting, brilliantly told tale of encountering the unknown and the unfathomable, and the value of preserving it.
Monte Reel lives in Buenos Aires with his wife and daughter. He was the South America correspondent for The Washington Post from 2004-2008 and previously wrote for the paper in Washington and Iraq.
“Whizzing arrows, devious plots, heartbreak and mystery — it’s amazing that amidst all this intrigue and adventure, Monte Reel’s main purpose in this remarkable tale is to chart the science behind an event we may never witness again: the discovery of a last survivor of a lost tribe. Reel masterfully describes the peril and moral dilemmas that unfold when a team devoted to protecting indigenous tribes stumbles upon a tribesman who, armed with five-foot arrows and near-invisibility, would rather protect himself. You won’t find anthropology this enthralling without a bullwhip and a fedora.”
-Christopher McDougall, New York Times bestselling author of Born to Run
"Monte Reel has journeyed into one of the last remote places on earth and come back with a tale as unique as the solitary Indian it describes. In this sure-handed recounting of a brave race against time by a small group of idealists, he provides an urgent and lyrical reminder of the value of preserving mystery in the world."
--Benjamin Wallace, author of the New York Times bestseller The Billionaire's Vinegar
“An exhilarating tale of obsession and loss, The Last of the Tribe guides us through the shadowy heart of Amazonia, a raucous frontier plagued by violence wrought in the name of progress. It is here that a lone Indian, pursued by rapacious ranchers and compassionate souls alike, becomes a celebrated symbol of defiance. Monte Reel’s account of this unlikely hero’s quest to survive is richly detailed, deeply humane, and wholly unforgettable.”
--Brendan I. Koerner, author of Now the Hell Will Start
“In chronicling the needle-in-a-haystack hunt for a lone Indian in the Amazon, Monte Reel has written a brilliant tale of man versus the jungle, of the dilemmas and dangers in trying to protect the few remaining indigenous tribes from the rapacious march of development. It is a riveting detective story. Once you crack open The Last of the Tribe, you'll find it impossible to stop reading.”
--Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone
“The tragedy that rises off the pages of The Last of the Tribe is mankind helpless to save itself—and the Amazon—from itself. Yet, in this gripping account hope shines through in the resolve of the brave and tenacious sertanistas to contact and save a lone isolated tribesman. Where experience is measured in bouts of malaria, the good guys attempt to outfox the greedy who recklessly exploit the jungle. Reel tells the story with vigor and restraint, both in the right places. I recommend it.”
--Dean King, author of Skeletons on the Zahara and Unbound
“Monte Reel gets right to the heart of the dilemma facing modern-day Brazil as its rush to develop the vast Amazon rain forest rapidly collides with the last vestiges of cultures whose way of life has changed little since the Stone Age. The Last of the Tribe does an excellent job of placing the reader in the heart of the Amazon.”
"The Last of the Tribe is Avatar for grown-ups, a tribe-in-peril-story with real people, complicated motives, and every bit of subtlety and nuance left out of James Cameron's cliched script. This is above all else just a good quest story. And Reel's tale is expertly told: perfectly timed, thoroughly researched and descriptively written.”
--San Francisco Chronicle
“The story is engrossing. Reel rightly tells it like a thriller…and taking the trek with the Brazilian explorers—and Reel—is well worth your time.”
–St. Louis Post-Dispatch