Uncontacted peoples

Uncontacted peoples

Uncontacted peoples are peoples who, either by choice or chance, live, or have lived, without significant contact with the 'modern' civilizations of the world.

Recent usage favors the term "isolated" rather than "uncontacted" as few peoples have remained totally uncontacted by modern civilization, but a number have chosen to make contact either exceedingly difficult or dangerous. Many indigenous rights activists call for such groups to be left alone in respect of their right to self-determination.

A problem with making contact with isolated peoples is that they lack any immunity to common diseases which explorers, trying to make contact with them, will inevitably carry. This can have severe consequences as normally minor diseases, such as the common cold, can be deadly when no natural immunity exists. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7426794.stm Isolated tribe spotted in Brazil] ]

There are several uncontacted tribes in New Guinea and Amazonia, including the Tagaeri band of Huaorani (Ecuador) and Kirineri, Nahua and Nanti peoples in the Nahua-Kugapakori Reserve (Peru). In late May 2008, the Brazilian government has released photographs and new information about an isolated tribe living near the Peruvian border; they have decided to make the information public now because the tribe's habitat is in danger due to logging, much of which is illegal and unregulated. Although the Brazilian Government have had some knowledge of the tribe's existence since 1910, no contact has been made. Many advocate increased awareness of the danger that this tribe and other isolated groups face.


Large areas of New Guinea are yet to be explored by scientists and anthropologists due to a lack of safety, and most of the occurrences there are not confirmed. The province of Irian Jaya or West Papua in the island of New Guinea is home to an estimated 44 uncontacted tribal groups. [ [http://www.survival-international.org/news.php?id=2191 BBC: First contact with isolated tribes?] ]

In India, some tribes of the Andaman Islands continue to avoid contact with the outside world; one of them, the Sentinelese, actively and violently reject it.

In the 1970s, an unknown tribe in the Philippines was supposedly discovered, known as the Tasaday. However, the authenticity of the Tasaday as a formerly uncontacted group is questionable. [ [http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/080625-tasaday-hoax.html A Savage Hoax: The Cave Men Who Never Existed] , LiveScience]


In 1984, a group of Pintupi people who were living a traditional hunter-gatherer desert-dwelling life were tracked down in the Gibson Desert in Western Australia and made contact for the first time with European-Australian society. They are believed to be the last uncontacted tribe in Australia. [ [http://recollections.nma.gov.au/issues/vol_1_no_2/exhibition_reviews/colliding_worlds/ Colliding worlds: first contact in the western desert, 1932-1984] ]

North America


The Seminole Wars pushed the Florida’s Indians farther south and directly into the Everglades swamps. Between the end of the last Seminole War and 1930, the Seminole tribe lived isolated from Florida society and the rest of the world. [ [http://www.seminoletribe.com/history/surrender.shtml Seminole Tribe of Florida: History] ]


Ishi is believed to be the last Native American in Northern California to have lived the bulk of his life completely outside the European American culture. In August 1911, he emerged from the wild near Oroville, California, leaving his ancestral homeland in the foothills near Lassen Peak. [ [http://www.library.ucsf.edu/collres/archives/hist/ishi/ Ishi: The Last Yahi] ]

outh America

On 18 January 2007, FUNAI reported that it had confirmed the presence of 67 different uncontacted tribes in Brazil, up from 40 in 2005. [ [http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSN17285256 Brazil sees traces of more isolated Amazon tribes] ] With this addition Brazil has now overtaken the island of New Guinea as the country having the largest number of uncontacted tribes.


As of 2006, the presence of 5 uncontacted groups was confirmed in Bolivia. A further 3 are to be confirmed. Those uncontacted groups whose presence has been confirmed are: Ayoreo in Parque Nacional Kaa Iya Mbya-Yuqui in Yuqui Reservation and Rio Usurinta (most of the Yuqui are now contacted, only a few families remain uncontacted), Yurakare in Santa Cruz and Beni, Pacahuara in the Chacobo reservation and Araona in the Araona Reservation. The presence of other groups such as Toromona in the Parque Nacional Madidi, Nahua in the PN Madidi and Esse Ejja in the Peruvian border are yet to be confirmed.


It is not known whether any Tagaeri survives now in Yasuni National Park. In the 1990s when a member of Tagaeri was contacted by a lone Huaorani hunter, he told him that Tagaeri numbers only a handful of members and are in danger of being wiped out by their hostile neighbours - the Taromenane. Since then there have been no more peaceful contacts. The Tagaeri hunter also mentioned about another group, the Oñamenane who numbered 5-6 individuals and there was one more tribe - the Huiñatare. In 2003 about 30 Taromenane were massacred by the Huaorani in retaliation for the killing of a Huaorani hunter. In the same year 14 Tagaeri were killed by loggers. In April 2006 a logger was speared to death by the Taromenane (in 2005 another one was also killed by the same tribe, whose body was later found embedded with 30 spears and his face unrecognizable). In the same month a further 30 Taromenane and 10 loggers were killed in conflicts according to leader Iki Ima Omene (of Huaorani). In Jan 2007 the president of Ecuador declared the Southern part of Yasuni a forbidden zone (7,580 square kilometers) in order to protect the uncontacted people. At the same time CONAIE reported that there are a total of 150-300 Taromenane (divided into 2 sub-tribes) and 20-30 Tagaeri surviving uncontacted there. The Oñamenane and Huiñatare are extinct. There are unconfirmed reports of uncontacted tribespeople in the border with Peru. Despite the good news, Ecuador continues to be the country with the maximum number of uncontacted people massacred since 2000.


There are now five reserves in the Peruvian Amazon meant to protect the lands and rights of isolated peoples. Most of the reserves are currently entered by illegal loggers and petroleum companies with legal concessions to work in those lands, although their activities jeopardize the lives of the isolated populations.

After Brazil (43 uncontacted groups confirmed) and New Guinea (Papua New Guinea and Iriyan Jaya), Peru has the largest number of uncontacted tribes in the world. Some of the groups in Peru are in danger of extermination by loggers. As of 2006, the locations where uncontacted groups are confirmed to be living are as follows:

*(a) Reserva Comunal Amarakaeri: Groups are Yine, Yora and other unidentified Panoan tribes.
*(b) Zona Reservada Biabo Cordillera Azul: Cacatibo.
*(c) Parque Nacional del Manu: Mashco-Piro, uncontacted bands of Matsiguenga, tribes belonging to Yura family and unidentified tribes.
*(d) Reserva Comunal Asháninka+Reserva Comunal Matsiguenga+Parque Nacional Otishi: uncontacted bands of Ashaninka.
*(e) Parque Nacional Alto Purús + Reserva Comunal Purús: Sharanahua, Yaminahua, Chitonahua, Curajeño & Mashco-Piro-Iñapari.
*(f) Reserva Territorial del Estado: Kungapakori, Nahua, Matsiguenga, Nanti, Krineri and other unidentified tribes.
*(g) Reserva Territorial del Murunahua y Chitonahua: Murunahua, Chitonahua.
*(h) Reserva Territorial del Isconahua: Isconahua.
*(i) Reserva Territorial del Mashco-Piro: Various tribes belonging to Mashco-Piro.
*(j) Reserva Territorial del Mashco-Piro o Iñapari: Mashco-Piro-Iñapari.
*(k)Reservas territoriales del Cacataibo: Cacataibo.


There remain 1-2 dozen Ayoreo who still have not been contacted. Most of them belong to the Totobiegosode clan. In the 1990s the main group attempting to contact them was New Tribes Mission. In 1979 and 1986, the New Tribes Mission was accused of assisting in the forcible contact of nomadic Ayoreo Indians, whose unsuccessful attempts to remain in the forest led to several deaths. Others died soon after being brought out of the forest. The incident forced some Ayoreo to flee to Bolivia. The main threat currently are the ranchers. The Paraguaian government is not taking any steps to protect them. In 2004 a group of 17 Ayoreo-Totobiegosode previously uncontacted made contact with the outside world and decided to settle down (5 men, 7 women and 5 children, according to Survival). It was not known whether there were any more isolated Ayoreo left in the jungle. But On the first week of September 2007, another uncontacted band of Ayoreo-Totobiegosode were spotted by loggers in the Western Chaco. Ayoreo are believed to be the last uncontacted Indians south of the Amazon basin. [ [http://www.survival-international.org/news/2500 Signs of uncontacted Indians seen as forest is cleared around them] ]

Popular culture

Uncontacted tribes remain a fascination in Western culture. Recently, the idea of tour operators offering extreme adventure tours to specifically search out uncontacted peoples has become a controversial subject [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4156/is_20070121/ai_n17150040 You're a 21st-century adventure tourist bored with whitewater] ] . A BBC Four documentary in 2006 documented a controversial American tour operator who specializes in escorted tours to "discover" uncontacted peoples in West Papua [ [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jprJBYYRcqQ&mode=related&search= First Contact (BBC4 Anthropology Season) - Part 1 of 6] ] similar to the BBC's own adventure in Papua New Guinea to make their 1971 documentary "A Blank on the Map" in which the first contact in over a decade was made with the Biami people.Fact|date=March 2008

Uncontacted tribes have also emerged in works of literature and film. One of them was "The Lost World" by Arthur Conan Doyle released in 1912. It depicts early human hominids in the jungle of South America. Inspired by it, Russian 1924 novel "Sannikov Land" describes an island off Siberian coast populated by an isolated Siberian tribe of Onkilon (another name for non-fictional Yuit thought to be extinct at the time), followed in 1973 by a Soviet movie "The Sannikov Land". The 1965 novel "Last of the Dogmen" and its 1995 film adaptation tell the story of a group of uncontacted Cheyenne discovered living in a remote part of Montana. In the 1991 film "At Play in the Fields of the Lord" (based on the novel of the same name), an American pilot parachutes from an airplane into the Amazon where he encounters and lives with a previously uncontacted tribe. The 1985 film "The Emerald Forest" features a Western boy kidnapped by a previously uncontacted Amazonian tribe called the "Invisible People". The 1980 film "The Gods Must Be Crazy" dealt with a fictitious uncontacted tribe in South Africa. The tribe live idyllic lives until they are set into chaos simply by contact with an object (a Coca-Cola bottle) from modern society. One of the tribe's elders (played by an actual bushman) sets out to throw the bottle off the "edge of the earth" to save his tribe.

ee also

*Indigenous peoples
*Indigenous peoples of the Americas
*List of ethnic groups


External links

* [http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2008/09/turning_a_blind_eye.php Turning a Blind Eye] in Seed (magazine)
* [http://www.survival-international.org Survival International]
* [http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/06/01/america/LA-GEN-Brazil-Indians.php Uncontacted Indian tribe found in Brazil's Amazon]
* [http://americas.org/item_16758 World Rainforest Movement Bulletin 87, October 2004: Indigenous People in Voluntary Isolation (10/28/04)]
* [http://uncontacted.com Uncontacted: A Field Study]
* [http://www.andaman.org Andamanese and other Negrito people]

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