Uncontacted tribes in the Amazon: Emerging into the modern world | Integrated Heritage Project

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

In today’s highly globalized world, it is difficult to believe there are regions that remain untouched or undiscovered. Recent images captured by photographer Ricardo Stuckert and publish by National Geographic, tell a different story. His photographs revealed an uncontacted Amazon tribe in the Brazilian forest demonstrating that there are still some communities living in complete isolation. Are governments doing enough for them? How should such communities be approached, or should they be approached at all? For Stuckert the discovery was an emotional experience: “To think that in the 21st century, there are still people who have no contact with civilization, living like their ancestors did 20,000 years ago—it’s a powerful emotion.” (National Geographic).

According to the Guardian, there are 70 such groups left of an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people; it is believed that most of these communities live in the Amazon.  Other groups of uncontacted tribes have been spotted in the past few years in this region, mainly along the borders of Peru and Brazil. Illegal logging groups, drug traffickers and gold prospectors are increasingly threating the survival of these communities. The leader of the Sapanahua tribe, who features in the 2016 documentary First Contact: the Lost Tribe of the Amazon, voiced his concern over these issues and described the constant confrontation with armed men. These episodes have forced young people from these isolated groups to pursue peaceful contact with the ‘outside’ world in order to seek modernity and protect themselves against these outside threats.

Policies have focused on creating reserves for the tribes to ensure they are not disturbed and protect them from outside illnesses for which they have no immunity. Local communities at the edge of these reserves are instructed to avoid any contact with the tribes that are seen nearby. To ensure the safety and wellbeing of these isolated communities, it is critical that authorities enforce these policies as well as create new ones to protect the tribes that want to join the modern world.

Not least, these tribes are great sources of knowledge about the jungle, flora, fauna, weather, and myriad cultural traditions. Governments need to safeguard these tribes’ natural and cultural heritage, as well as their intangible heritage before they are lost. These tribes are changing, as are their needs.  The ways in which governments treat them must necessarily change too.


*Image: Ricardo Stuckter / National Geographic

Posted in: Heritage News