Remarkably, there are around 100 isolated tribes living in the Amazon rainforest today, who have never been in contact with the outside world. These tribes have lived deep in the historic virgin tropical forests of Brazil and Peru for centuries, living as hunter gatherers. For decades, these tribes have remained elusive, hiding away from the outside world:
However, as the Amazon rainforest witnesses unprecedented levels of deforestation (15% increase each year) many undiscovered tribes are running out of places to hide. Unbelievably more than 200,000 acres of rainforest around the world is lost every day. Logging illegally cuts out wage regulation, permits and taxes, making it hugely profitable for the cattle and beef industry. Federally protected indigenous land is often targeted for its rich virgin forests by illegal loggers, leading to the in-discriminate killing of indigenous people. Drug traffickers and miners also have a stranglehold on the forests.
Many isolated tribes are now starting to emerge for the first time, looking for help to combat the illegal loggers and drug traffickers. In 2014, contact was first made with an uncontacted Peruvian tribe across the border in Brazil. According to Ze Correia, a member of the native Brazilian Ashanika tribe who met them, they asked for weapons and allies, after they had been attacked in their forest homeland by non-Indians, most likely drug traffickers. Ze Correia notes that “they said that many old people died and that they buried three people in one grave. They say that so many people died that they couldn’t bury them all and their corpses were eaten by vultures”.
However, contact is very risky, as the tribes are extremely susceptible to germs and disease from outside contact. According to Survival International, “introduced disease is the biggest killer of isolated tribal people, who have not developed immunity to viruses such as influenza, measles and chicken pox that most other societies have been in contact with for hundreds of years”. In Peru, more than 50% of the previously uncontacted Nahua tribe were wiped out following oil exploration on their land in the early 1980’s. Jorge below, lost an eye during first contact with illegal loggers. He notes that “the disease killed us. Half of us died. My aunt died, my nephew died: half of my people died”.
As many more uncontacted tribes begin to emerge, questions have been raised about how we should approach the tribes. American academics and anthropologists Kim Hall and Robert Walker have argued that we now need to make contact with the last isolated tribes, challenging the “current leave them alone policy”. Professor Hill, argues that “protection is an illusion. Loggers, miners, narco traffickers, hunters and explorers enter at these areas at will, and accidental contacts are inevitable and disastrous”. He adds that “contacting tribes in a controlled way for their viability is independent of any exploitation of their land, and always leads to increased, not decreased political protection”. Conversely, Survival International have disagreed, arguing that “the proposal is dangerous and illegal, and undermines the rights and indigenous peoples have fought long and hard for”. The real threats against uncontacted tribes’ future “are genocidal violence, the invasion of lands and theft of their natural resources, and prevailing racist attitudes”.
As large swathes of the Amazon continue to be destroyed, the future of the last uncontacted tribes for the moment remains uncertain. In reality, the future doesn’t depend on them, it depends on us, our conscience and how we treat the natural world.
In a globalised world, it is crucial that we continue to protect the indigenous populations and the ecosystems that they inhabit. We urgently need to put pressure on governments and corporations around the world to start viewing the natural world as something worth preserving, instead of destroying it. It is now time for us to take action, so that the last jungle nomads and their culture do not disappear from our earth forever.
Please visit Survival International today to see how you can make a difference: References: All pictures are from the Survival International Website: http://www.survivalinternational.org https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/27/amazon-deforestation-report-brazil-paris-climate-talkstected this planet for future generations”. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/01/amazon-tribe-makes-first-contact-with-outside-world http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/we-need-to-make-contact-with-isolated-amazon-tribes-say-academics-10334163.html http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/earthpicturegalleries/11166398/Amazon-deforestation-seen-from-the-air-in-pictures.html?frame=3074674 http://www.survivalinternational.org/articles/3106-uncontacted-tribes-the-threats http://www.survivalinternational.org/articles/3390-open-letter-to-u-s-anthropologists-kim-hill-and-robert-s-walker http://www.survivalinternational.org/articles/3106-uncontacted-tribes-the-threats