That is why sometimes there comes the moment in which the history of an entire culture rests on the shoulders of a single survivor, the last of its kind.
Here are 10 people who had (or have) the sad honor of being the last of their culture:
1 – The last Shakers
The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second coming, known as Shakers or Shaking Quakers, is a religious organization originally described as a branch of the Quakers, protestants.
Founded upon the teachings of Ann Lee (1736-1784), the community of Shaker flourished in the United States, having around 4,000 members before the Civil War. Members are characterized by living in a community and devote themselves to prayer, crafts, and agriculture.
One of the rules of the life of a Shaker was that it required, celibacy. The mother Ann viewed sex as a sin, so the new members of the Shaker were limited to new converts.
After the Civil War, the number of Shakers began to decline and many villages were abandoned. Since 2010 there are only three Shakers alive. Living in Sabbathday Shaker Village in Maine, where they still practice their traditional way of life and keep the door open to any new convert.
2 – Truganini, the last Tasmanian
Truganini was the last aboriginal Tasmanian. His people had inhabited the island of Tasmania for 45,000 years until it was virtually eradicated by the Black War (the period of conflict between British Colonists and Tasmanian Aborigines in the early NINETEENTH century).
Within this context appeared a well-meaning preacher Englishman called George Augustus Robinson, who thought that he could protect the Tasmanian on Flinders Island. To do this he welcomed Truganini, the teenage daughter of an aboriginal leader whose wife had been killed by the settlers, to travel with him and help him translate.
However, Robinson eventually dropped his mission with Truganini. Without any place to go, she and some friends resorted to a life of crime. After being captured, they were sent to Flinders Island, which turned out to be more a prison than a refuge. The population on Flinders island died out little by little, and with the time Truganini became the last person of their culture who remained alive.
3 – The last Navajo Wupatki
The Wupatki National Monument in Arizona has a really amazing history. The area has been inhabited intermittently for over 11,000 years by many different societies. More recently, the ancestors of the Hopi tribe settled in the area, followed by the Navajo, some of whom remain there to this day.
Most of the Navajos of Wupatki were forced to leave their lands in 1864. That year, the army of the United States relocated them by force, an act which was seen as deportation and ethnic cleansing, many of those who lived in what is now Arizona were taken to New Mexico, known as “The Long Walk of the Navajo“. With time, some Navajos returned and resettled in the area, until in 1924, the government declared the area a national monument.
Only to the Navajos who lived in Wupatki were allowed to stay. Stella Peshlakai Smith is one of those people. She was born at Wupatki a month before the area was closed. When she dies, her family will have to abandon their property, since they will not be allowed to live there. Unless the law changes, Stella Peshlakai Smith will be one of the last people to live at Wupatki.
4 – The last ninja
Jinichi Kawakami is a college Professor, Museum Director, and Engineer, who also claims to be the last of the legendary ninjas of Japan. Kawakami began to practice ninjutsu when he was only six years old and went on to become the twenty-first head of the Ban, a ninja clan that dates back 500 years ago.
The own Kawakami ensures that the secret techniques of ninja have no place in the modern world. Therefore, no plans to name a successor to take charge of the clan Ban after he is gone.
In contrast, to help preserve a tradition as old, Kawakami has spent much of his life studying the history and techniques of the ninja. He currently leads the Ninja Museum of Igaryu, which collects and preserves the secrets of the scrolls of the ninja.
5 – Survivor of the last slave ship
Fifty years after the United States banned the international slave trade, many slaves continued to be smuggled illegally into the country. Cudjo Lewis was one of these. Born in what is today Benin, the African, Cudjo was captured and sold as a slave when a king of a rival village attacked his city. Shortly after his capture, he was loaded on to a ship called Clotida that had been destined for Mobile, Alabama.
Cudjo remained as a slave for five years before obtaining freedom. He and the other survivors of the Clotida were installed on the outskirts of Mobile, in a place that they bought from their former owners and called it African Town. Cudjo was the last slave who lived in African Town.
6 – The last of The Awang Batil
The Awang Batil is an ancient narrative tradition of Malaysia. In the Awang Batil, a storyteller tells his story while slapping a drum of bronze or batil. Usually, the show begins with the burning of incense to purify the area where the narration will take place. The narrator uses masks and scarves to embellish stories, which are often cheerful and full of humor.
The Awang Batil and other oral traditions like it have been slowly disappearing, even in rural areas, as people have come to prefer television and other modern forms of entertainment to the most ancient traditions.
Currently, there is only one practitioner of Awang Batil alive: Romli Mahmud. Mahmud has no intention to teach his art to anyone, because he thinks that the traditional stories do not connect with the modern society, so surely this tradition will die with him.
7 – The last Don
At the beginning of the decade of 2000, the dreaded “Five Families” of New York city of the Cosa Nostra were a reminder of what they were. John Gotti, the terrifying leader of the Gambino crime family had died in prison. The heads of the crime families Genovese and Colombo had been imprisoned. And Little Al D’arco, the family, Lucchese, betrayed the mafia by becoming a witness for the government.
The only one that lasted was Joseph Massino, head of the crime family Bonanno, whom the media nicknamed “The Last Don“. Massino rose through the ranks of the Bonanno to lead the family after it appears to have been a bloody power struggle between rival factions.
It was during this time when it was suspected that Massino had conspired to murder some of his rivals. Ultimately convicted of these murders, the Last Gift he gave to his family and became a witness of the government, during which time he helped the feds gather evidence to accuse his own successor.
8 – The last president of Kongo Gumi
Kongo Gumi was a family owned Japanese Construction Company that was founded in the year 578 D.C. The company is specialized in the construction of Buddhist temples, a job stable enough to keep the company in operation for more than 1,400 years.
During this time, the property of the company has remained within the Kongo family, following the Japanese tradition of passing the reins to a family member who was considered most capable of leading the company. However, from the 1990s, the modern world was finally able to do without Kongo Gumi.
The company suffered large losses after several bad real estate business deals at the same time that demands for their services began to decrease. Masakasu Kongo, the 40th president of the company, had to take the difficult decision to lay off their workers.
To see that the debts only increased, Masakasu was forced to sell the company, becoming the last Kongo in directing the family empire. Kongo Gumi is still there, but now it is a subsidiary of another construction company.
9 – The last Hakawati
Like the Awang Batil, the Hakawati is a show of narrative performed by a storyteller (confusingly also called the hakawati).
What is really interesting in the Hakawati, is his nature. Instead of traveling, the hakawati always operates from the same cafe or cafeteria for a traveling public to listen to him. The stories in the Hakawati are by nature serial, and often require multiple readings to complete.
It is believed that Abu Shadi was the only hakawati that was left in Syria. Most of the audience were men of about sixty years that they were going to see representations of Hakawati since childhood. The own Shadi said that one of the causes of the decline of the Hakawati was that the narrator was connecting better with members of the audience who are regulars, people who will respond well to him and vice versa, however, there is no longer anyone who goes to these shows with the regularity that this requires.
The demographic changes in Damascus and other cities led to a drop in regular customers in the café Abu Shadi, remained with pride in the tradition until he passed away in 2014.
10 – The last Jew of Afghanistan
Zablon Simintov is the owner of a small kebab in Kabul. The restaurant is located inside a synagogue that Zablon expects to be able to renew.
Due to the chaos that has engulfed Afghanistan in the past 20 years, many religious minorities have almost disappeared in the country. Christian afghans are gone, and the Hindus are also disappearing. Since 2005, Zablon became the last jew in Afghanistan.
Because he still feels an immense affection towards his home, Zablon remains in the place where he grew up despite the fact that his wife and children have emigrated to Israel. Although he is well-known in his neighborhood, he still takes precautions, such as removing the cap when he goes out and not advertise the fact that the restaurant is run by a jew.
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