On July 1, 2014, seven members of the Amazon tribe emerged from the jungle and made their first contact with the rest of the world. This was due to a terrible and tragic necessity. Despite 600 years of Portuguese-Brazilian history, this tribe emerged only to mend relationships with its new neighbors.
According to Survival International, there are still about 100 so-called non-contact peoples in the world, although their real number is probably higher. Sources of these figures include observations from aircraft flying over isolated areas and reports of people living in the vicinity in contact with the natives.
In fact, “non-contact” is a bit of a misnomer, as it is likely that even the most isolated tribe in the world interacted with outsiders in some way, whether face-to-face or through tribal trade. However, these peoples are not integrated into the global civilization and retain their own customs and culture.
In general, non-contact tribes show no interest in communicating with the outside world. One of the possible reasons for this behavior is fear. At the same time, the researchers note that non-contact peoples are excellently oriented in the forests and are well aware of the presence of strangers.
The reasons why a group of people might want to remain isolated can vary, but in many cases they just want to be left alone. Anthropologist Robert S. Walker of the University of Missouri (USA) also considers fear to be the main reason why non-contact tribes do not get in touch with civilization.
In today’s world, tribal isolation can be romanticized as opposing the forces of globalization and capitalism, but as Kim Hill, an anthropologist at Arizona State University, says, “There is no group of people who are voluntarily isolated because they think it’s cool not to have contact. with no one else on the planet. “
Is it worth being friends?
Technically speaking, most of these tribes had contact with the outside world in one way or another. The so-called “most isolated tribe in the world” first established contact with civilized society in the late 1800s, although they have since preferred to keep apart.
In Brazil, over the Amazon forests are regularly flown over wooded areas where tribal tribes live, not only out of anthropological curiosity, but also to ensure that illegal deforestation does not occur, as well as to confirm the survival of wildlife after natural disasters.
Tribes have the right to self-determination and the land on which they live. Since the arrival of strangers would radically change their way of life, and they clearly would not want it, it is believed that it is best for the outside world to stay away, and the peoples could determine their own future.
Historically, the affairs of the tribes with which we contacted did not work out right after the meeting. The reason is isolation – they simply lack immunity to many common diseases.
Moreover, there is a documented history of the first contacts that led to epidemics. Today, researchers are urging not to come into contact with tribal peoples due to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to National Geographic, the coronavirus is getting closer and closer to the Amazon tribes.
However, some anthropologists believe that isolated populations are not viable in the long term “and” well-organized contacts are today humane and ethical. The fact is that there are many cases when, soon after peaceful contact with the outside world, the surviving indigenous peoples quickly recovered from demographic disasters. It should be noted that this argument is rejected by most indigenous rights advocates and is somewhat lacking in evidence.
“The most isolated tribe in the world” lives in the Andaman Islands off the coast of India. Having come into contact with civilization in the 19th century, the tribe has since remained isolated and hostile to outsiders – the last official attempt to establish contact was made in 1996.
All further attempts to establish contact were not made, not only to protect the tribe from disease, but also because the natives tend to shoot arrows at anyone who comes too close. In 2018, American missionary John Chu decided to bring the word of God to the Sentinelians. However, the Tuzenians did not like his visit and they shot him.
Today, this non-contact people remain a hunter-gatherer society that does not know agriculture. They have metal tools, but they can only make them from iron, which is extracted from nearby shipwrecks.
This tribe has remained isolated for so long that the languages of neighboring tribes are incomprehensible to them, and the language of their own tribe remains unclassified. Scientists believe that the world’s most uncontacted tribe has existed in isolation for several hundred, if not thousands of years.
The Javara tribe is another isolated people in India, also living in the Andaman Islands. They are a self-sustaining hunter-gatherer society and are reportedly quite happy and healthy.
In the early nineties, the local government presented a plan to introduce the tribe into the modern world, but recently it was decided to abandon it, even though recently there has been more communication between Jaravasi and outsiders due to the increase in settlements near their villages.
In 1998, members of the tribe began visiting the outside world. This contact caused two outbreaks of measles in a tribe whose inhabitants did not have immunity to it. The tribe is also increasingly being visited by lost tourists and new settlements nearby.
Vale do Javari
The Javari Valley in Brazil is an area the size of Austria and is home to about 20 indigenous tribes. 2000 people out of 3000 living there are considered “non-contact”. There is very little information about these tribes, but researchers know that the natives use agriculture along with hunting, and also make metal tools and pots.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Brazilian government pursued a policy of establishing contacts with isolated tribes, but this was put to an end by the history of the Mathis tribe from the region. As a result of the diseases to which they were subjected, three of the five villages of the tribe were wiped off the face of the earth, and their population declined sharply. Today, the threat to these isolated tribal peoples comes from miners and lumberjacks.
There is very little information about these isolated peoples, as the Indonesian government has done a good job of keeping people out of the highlands. However, some tribes have come into contact with the civilized world over the past century, while remaining rather isolated and retaining their traditions.
One of the most striking examples is the Dani people and their history. Located in the heart of Indonesian New Guinea, the tribe is in contact with the outside world, but retains its customs. This people is known for amputation of fingers, in memory of already dead comrades, they also widely use body paint. Although Dani has been in contact with the rest of the world since 1938, they give researchers an insight into the people we have yet to meet.
Over the past century, contact with many of the Congo’s forest peoples has been infrequent. However, it is assumed that many isolated tribes still exist. The Mbuti, or “pygmies,” are a contiguous but isolated people who can give us an idea of how other, unknown to scientists, non-contact tribes can live.
Mbuti are hunter-gatherers who perceive the forest as the parent that provides them with everything they need. They live in small, egalitarian villages and are mostly self-sufficient, but they trade with outside groups. Today their lifestyles are threatened by deforestation, illegal mining and genocide against the pygmies.