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Isolated Tribe Photographed

Posted by shadmia on May 30, 2008

It may be a surprise to learn that there are many communities which have never been contacted by the “civilized” world. One such group has been photographed by Survival International, a human rights organization formed in 1969 that campaigns for the rights of indigenous tribal peoples.

Aerial pictures were taken from a low-flying aircraft during several flights over one of the remotest parts of the Amazon rain forest. It is a remote region in the Terra Indigena Kampa e Isolados do Envira, Acre state, Brazil, close to the border with Peru. The photos show a group of native Indians and their dwellings. These are people who have never had any contact with the outside world. In one of the pictures two men, covered in red paint, are pointing their bow and arrows at the overhead aircraft while another person, painted in black, looks on behind them.

José Carlos dos Reis Meirelles Junior, who works for FUNAI, the Brazilian government’s Indian affairs department, said they first encountered the group on a morning flight earlier this month and saw dozens of people dotted around a clearing with two communal huts. When they returned later the same day, the impact of the earlier flight was clear. Most of the women and children had fled into the forest, he said, and those that were left had painted their bodies, taken up arms and appeared to be on a “war footing”.

“We did the overflight to show their houses, to show they are there, to show they exist,” said Meirelles, an expert on the remote tribal people who live beyond the boundaries of the modern world. “This is very important because there are some who doubt their existence.”

Peru’s President, Alan Garcia, has openly questioned the existence of uncontacted tribes. In Peru similar tribes are being driven from their lands by aggressive oil and mining interests and illegal loggers.

“What is happening in this region [of Peru] is a monumental crime against the natural world, the tribes, the fauna, and is further testimony to the complete irrationality with which we, the ‘civilized’ ones, treat the world,” said Mr Meirelles.

After a decades-long political battle, indigenous groups now have their land rights protected under Brazilian law. Survival International is leading calls for Peru to act in accordance with international law and protect the tribes on its territory. Survival’s Fiona Watson, who recently returned from the region, said that Indians fleeing over the border into Brazil could be driven into conflict with uncontacted tribes already living there. “It is clear from this photograph that they want to be left alone,” she said.

Nothing is known about these people. Their extraordinary body paint, precisely what they eat, how they construct their tent-like camp, their language, how their society operates, how they wear their hair, how they adorn their bodies, how they live their livesit is all a mystery. Uncontacted tribes, which are located in the jungles of South America, New Guinea and North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean (the inhabitants of which have also responded to attempts at contact with extreme aggression) all have one thing in common – they want to be left alone.

The history of contact, between indigenous tribes and the outside world, has always been an unhappy one. They have always been threatened by outsiders who, for various reasons, want to control their land and are often willing to kill for what they want. Even just coming into contact can be deadly. Many tribes have been wiped out by diseases, like the common cold, for which they have no resistance.

According to Miriam Ross of Survival International:

“These tribes represent the incredible diversity of humankind. Unless we want to condemn yet more of the earth’s peoples to extinction, we must respect their choice. Any contact they have with outsiders must happen in their own time and on their own terms.” Ms Ross added, “These pictures are further evidence that uncontacted tribes really do exist. The world needs to wake up to this, and ensure that their territory is protected in accordance with international law. Otherwise, they will soon be made extinct.”

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6 Responses to “Isolated Tribe Photographed”

  1. Gov said

    This is very surpicing

  2. Joos said

    It makes me very sad and angry when I realize how these people’s world is threatened by the mercyless exploitation of our “civilised” economy. They are survivors; we should support every struggle that enables them to live on like they do.

  3. oftherock said

    This reminded me of a movie we saw recently at a youth camp entitled “End of the Spear”. Based on true accounts in the 50s.

    Really surprising to hear that we still have “unreached tribal groups” in this day and age.

    I pray that we let them be…

  4. Wow very interesting. But it’d be better if people left them alone.

  5. theWEEN said

    i think that we should give them the ween and exploit their women and children especially…we should contact them with rape

  6. […] The pictures were taken by Brazil’s Indian Affairs Department, which has authorized Survival International to use them as part of its campaign to protect their territory. For more on their story click here. […]

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