Friday anthropology lesson

There are, apparently, more than 100 uncontacted tribes on Planet Earth.  People who are living a pre-modern, hell, pre-Bronze Age existence way out beyond the Red Line of human civilisation on this globe.

This is one of them:

brazil_tribe(Image courtesy AP / BBC News)

They were spotted by a Brazilian government aircraft yesterday.  The BBC has plenty of pictures and some armchair analysis (thankfully free of preachiness) by a representative of Survival International, an NGO that wants us to take a Prime Directive-like approach to dealing with pre-contact societies.

UPDATE: More from the Associated Press:

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) — One of Brazil’s last uncontacted Indian tribes has been spotted in the far western Amazon jungle near the Peruvian border, the National Indian Foundation said Thursday.

The Indians were sighted in an Ethno-Environmental Protected Area along the Envira River in flights over remote Acre state, said the government foundation, known as Funai.

Funai said it photographed “strong and healthy” warriors, six huts and a large planted area. But it was not known to which tribe they belonged, the group said.

“Four distinct isolated peoples exist in this region, whom we have accompanied for 20 years,” Funai expert Jose Carlos Meirelles Junior said in a statement.

Funai does not make contact with the Indians and prevents invasions of their land, to ensure total autonomy for the isolated tribes, the foundation said.

Survival International said the Indians are in danger from illegal logging in Peru, which is driving uncontacted tribes over the border and could lead to conflict with the estimated 500 uncontacted Indians now living on the Brazilian side.

I admit I am on the fence here.  On the one hand you don’t want to blow their minds with the advances of human civilisation in the past few thousand years.  On the other hand, assuming we protect their title to the land, is there really a good solid reason to let fellow men and women live and die with diseases, ailments and conditions modern science and medicine have long since mastered?

SORTA RELATED: If you play the Royal Woodbine Golf Club out by Pearson Airport, there’s a hole or two where, if the planes are landing on the 24L/R runways, you can try to smack an airplane with a golf ball.  I am sure the planes are moving too fast and are actually too far away (in altitude) to be hit with the average guy’s 270-300yd drive, but it’s tempting as hell (and yes, I’ve tried).  Sometimes the aircraft seem close enough to reach out and touch.

Which is a long way of saying you can take the guy out of the jungle, give him a few thousand years of accumulated education and wisdom, and he’ll still try and hit a moving target with whatever’s handy.  Human nature really is immutable.

231709Z JUNE 2008 UPDATE: Sharp-eyed Darcey spots an interesting update in News.com.au, revealing that this particular tribe (still uncontacted) has been known about since 1910.  The researcher took aerial photos and made a big splash in the media specifically to prevent loggers from encroaching on the tribe’s turf.

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3 Responses
  1. Colin says:

    Do you think they want to trade us the secret of dirt, for the secret of nuclear weapons?
    Some fun, you bet!

  2. Chris Taylor says:

    LOL. I haven’t played Civilization IV in a long while, but from what I remember the AI is slightly better about asking for technological advances. They no longer want to trade beads for aircraft carriers.

  3. You gotta admire their arrow-shooting; no running away for these guys!
    It seems that these uncontacted peoples have had some contactedness. It is a headscratcher. Sure, let them be for now. But how long will they hold out? Another century? Is noncontactedness their right forever? If it is now, then I suppose it is forever. If one of their tribe members leaves and gets a degree at MIT, should he be permitted to go home for his sister’s wedding? Can he bring a date? Can he move back permanently?
    Did they all really turn their backs on civilization because they were ‘attacked’, as I read in one piece? Gee, could there be other reasons they’d want to live on their own?
    I’m sure the Federation would be in there with fool-proof duck-blind observation technology checking them out. But we all know how wrong that turns out every time.
    I need to pick up my first game for the iMac – something along the lines of Civ or AofE. Can’t decide.