Uncontacted people are communities or groups of indigenous peoples living without sustained contact to neighbouring communities and the world community. In 2013 there were thought to be roughly 100 uncontacted tribes worldwide, half of whom live in the Amazon rainforest.
Knowledge of uncontacted peoples comes mostly from encounters with neighbouring indigenous communities and from aerial footage.
While sporadic contact may occur and products from outside might be acquired, uncontacted peoples sustain communities living in isolation either unintendedly, actively out of need, or voluntarily. To highlight their agency in staying uncontacted or isolated, international organizations emphasize calling them "indigenous peoples in isolation" or "in voluntary isolation". Otherwise they have also been called "peoples in initial contact", "hidden peoples", "uncontacted tribes", or even incorrectly "lost tribes".
Relations with outsiders
Indigenous rights activists call for indigenous peoples in isolation to be left alone, saying that contact will interfere with their right to self-determination as peoples. Countries have been legislating policy to leave them alone, though such laws are often difficult to enforce or suffer deprioritization. Since isolated peoples lack immunity to common infectious diseases, up to half of them can die of respiratory disease following first contact. It has been proposed[by whom? – Discuss] that isolated populations are not viable in the long term and that a controlled contact is more humane than the uncontrolled contact that is currently happening. Controlled contact for example has been occasionally used by the Brazilian state organization National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) to prevent conflicts and deliver vaccinations. Some isolating peoples might even want to have trading relationships and positive social connections with others, but choose isolation out of fears of conflict or exploitation. Other threats are usually related to the outside world's desire to exploit their lands. This can include lumbering, ranching and farming, land speculation, oil prospecting and mining, and poaching. Evangelical missionaries also pose a threat.
Uncontacted peoples in culture
Uncontacted peoples have been romanticized, objectified and used for satisfying modern fascinations for claiming first contact or claiming a projected state of nature, historically by colonial endeavours and contemporarily by people paying tour operators who offer adventure tours to search them out. Indigenous peoples, and specifically those in voluntary isolation, have been an object of colonial exploration and its search for the Ten Lost Tribes, being incorrectly associated with them and sometimes named as such.
The Sentinelese people of North Sentinel Island, which lies near South Andaman Island in the Bay of Bengal, reject contact. Attempts to contact them have usually been rebuffed, sometimes with lethal force. Their language is markedly different from other languages on the Andamans, which suggests that they may have remained isolated for thousands of years. They have been called by experts the most isolated people in the world, and they are likely to remain so. However, private people have attempted to intrude upon them repeatedly. Such attempts are against the law. Most recently, in November 2018, American missionary John Allen Chau was slain by the Sentinelese during an illegal expedition to the island. Chau had an intent to convert the tribe to Christianity. During the 2001 Census of India, a joint expedition conducted during 23–24 February 2001 identified at least a few dozen individuals, but it was not exhaustive. Helicopter surveys after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami confirmed the Sentinelese had survived, and there have been a few limited interactions with them since. The local Andaman and Nicobar administration has adopted an "eyes-on and hands-off" policy to ensure that no poachers enter the island. A protocol of circumnavigation of North Sentinel Island has been made and notified in consultation with the Indian government.
This section appears to contradict itself on the number of groups.September 2020)(
The Toromona are an uncontacted people living near the upper Madidi River and the Heath Rivers in northwestern Bolivia. The government has created an "exclusive, reserved, and inviolable" portion of the Madidi National Park to protect the Toromona.
Among the Ayoreo people of the Gran Chaco are a small number of uncontacted nomadic hunter-gatherers in the Kaa-Iya del Gran Chaco National Park and Integrated Management Natural Area.
Until the 1970s Brazil attempted unsuccessfully to assimilate or move anyone on lands that could be commercially cultivated. Then, in 1987, it set up the Department of Isolated Indians inside FUNAI, facilitating the work of Sydney Possuelo and José Carlos Meirelles, and declared the Vale do Javari perpetually sealed off, encompassing an area of 85,444.82 km 2 (32,990 mi 2). In 2007, FUNAI reported the presence of 67 uncontacted indigenous peoples in Brazil, up from 40 in 2005.
The Awá are people living in the eastern Amazon rainforest. There are approximately 350 members, and 100 of them have no contact with the outside world. They are considered highly endangered because of conflicts with logging interests in their territory.
The Kawahiva live in the north of Mato Grosso. They are usually on the move and have little contact with outsiders. Thus, they are known primarily from physical evidence they have left behind – arrows, baskets, hammocks, and communal houses.
The Korubu live in the lower Vale do Javari in the western Amazon Basin. Other tribes may include the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, and the Himarimã. There may be uncontacted peoples in Terra Indigena Uru-Eu-Uaw-Uaw and Terra Indigena Xinane Isolados.
As of 2020, uncontacted peoples in Brazil are threatened by illegal land grabbers, loggers and gold miners, as the government of Jair Bolsonaro wants to develop the Amazon and reduce the size of indigenous reservations.
With the creation of gigantic tribal reserves and strict patrolling, Colombia is now regarded as one of the countries where uncontacted indigenous people are offered maximum protection.
The Nukak people are nomadic hunter-gatherers living between the Guaviare and Inírida rivers in south-east Colombia at the headwaters of the northwest Amazon basin. There are groups, including the Carabayo, Yuri and the Passé, in Río Puré National Park.
Two isolated indigenous peoples of Ecuador live in the Amazon region: the Tagaeri and the Taromenane. Both are eastern Huaorani peoples living in Yasuni National Park. These semi-nomadic people live in small groups, subsisting on hunting, gathering, and some crops. They are organized into extended families. Since 2007 there is a national policy which mandates: untouchability, self-determination, equality, and no contact. In 2013, more than 20 Taromenane were killed by other Huaorani.
Approximately 100 Ayoreo people, some of whom are in the Totobiegosode tribe, live uncontacted in the forest. They are nomadic, and hunt, forage, and conduct limited agriculture. They are the last uncontacted peoples south of the Amazon basin, and are in Amotocodie. Threats to them include rampant illegal deforestation. According to Survival International, Brazilian company Yaguarete Porá S.A. is converting thousands of hectares of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode tribe's ancestral territory into cattle ranching land. The Union of Ayoreo Natives of Paraguay is working for their protection, with support from the Iniciativa Amotocodie.
The Mashco-Piro are nomadic Arawak hunter-gatherers who inhabit Manú National Park in Peru. In 1998, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs estimated their number to be around 100 to 250. They speak a dialect of the Piro languages. Amid incursions on their land, the tribe has made it clear they do not wish to be contacted. As of 2013, all the bands seem to be surviving. Other groups include the Machiguenga, Nanti, Asháninka, Mayoruna, Isconahua, Kapanawa, Yora, Murunahua, Chitonahua, Mastanahua, Kakataibo, and Pananujuri. Many of them speak dialects of Panoan languages. There are five reserves for uncontacted peoples. However, the law designed to protect those peoples does not prevent economic operations there.
There are over 40 uncontacted tribes living in West Papua. Many of these tribes have had contact in recent years, since being discovered. Most of the contact was of a negative nature, so it is now illegal for journalists and other organizations to make contact. There is no dedicated government agency for the protection of these tribes, and it is unclear how the no contact laws are being enforced. Human rights organizations including Survival International have argued that there is a need to raise awareness of the existence of uncontacted tribes, for example to prevent the development of infrastructure near their lands. On the other hand, remaining vague about the exact location and size of the tribe may help to avoid encouraging contact.
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