Tribes or indigenous people as we call them have a culture of living in the most remote places of the world and are self-sufficient in their ways usually through hunting and gathering. Many of these tribes have remained relatively uncontested by humans outside their areas and therefore are called uncontested tribes. The term does not mean that they are completely unknown, which still might be the case for many tribes but rather they have rejected human contact beyond their own groups. Due to deforestation and climate change, many have to leave their surrounding while many others are fighting the fight to protect their land and culture.
Organizations like Survival International ensure that tribal peoples' desires to keep their ancestral lands are met. The Brazilian government's FUNAI (National Indian Foundation) is another such advocacy group which seeks to protect the vulnerable tribes without interfering with their lifestyle. FUNAI not only aims to protect the uncontacted tribes but also other indigenous people of the Amazon river basin. It conducts infrequent flyovers to check their geographical movements and make sure that there aren’t any loggers illegally encroaching on their lands. A recent attack on an American man who wanted to contact the Sentinelese tribe fueled the discussions revolving around uncontacted tribes. Anthropologists and indigenous rights supporters claim that attempts to have contact with the tribes would not only gravely influence their lifestyle and culture but would also make them prone to epidemics and common diseases which they haven’t gained any immunity for. In 2018, a measles outbreak is claimed to infect 500 Yanomami, a tribe living in the rainforest stretching from southern Venezuela to northern Brazil. They also claim that the tribes have rights to self-determination and to the land they live on. Some tribes also face danger from human forces, such as the Mbuti who are facing systematic extermination by rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
According to Survival International around 100 so-called uncontacted peoples still exist. Brazil, alone, claims to have 77 uncontacted peoples living in the Amazon Rainforest. These numbers are sourced from observations from aircraft flying over the isolated regions and accounts by contacted peoples living nearby. In all probability, the numbers for uncontested tribes might even be higher.
National Geographic called them the “world’s most endangered tribe,” in an in-depth report in 2018. 100 of the tribe’s 600 members are still claimed to live nomadically in the Amazon forest. According to the Indigenous Missionary Council, about 450 indigenous people were murdered between 2003 and 2010. Their legal victories to claim their own land in the past have not been successful to keep the loggers away.
The Javari Valley in Brazil is home to approximately 20 indigenous tribes. Of the 3,000 persons estimated to live there around 2,000 of them are thought to be “uncontacted” Brazilian Government took steps to contact these tribes in the 1970s and 80s believing that it would be in their best interests. However, their introduction to outside diseases proved deadly with three of their five villages wiped out and population dropping drastically. The government no longer engages or encourages contact and the threat now comes from miners and loggers.
“The most isolated tribe in the world” lives on the Andaman Islands, India. The tribe does not accept any contact from the outside and killed an American man in 2018. Their decision might be a learned lesson as the neighboring tribes were wiped out after the British colonized their islands and they suffered diseases as a result of it. The tribe hunts and gathers in the forest, and fish in the coastal waters.
Mashco Piro is an Amazon tribe that has lived in the jungles of Peru for almost 600 years. The tribe has known to kill two men in 2015 and 2011 respectively for trying to maintain contact. Peru prohibits contact with the tribe mainly because of their lack of immunity for the most common diseases such as the cold. The Mashco Piro are believed to have fled into the jungle during the Amazon rubber boom (1880-1914) and had rejected all contact with outsiders until around 2015 when reports of their contacting the nearby villages emerged.
These hunter-gatherers live in West Papua and believe in the existence of spirits as well as reincarnation. They have been living up in treehouses for centuries in order to avoid attacks from rival clans and they made the first human contact outside their own in the 1970s. However, the Indonesian government has been building cities in the middle of the rainforest, and towards the Korowai so it is possible that the tribe might become endangered in the future.
In the end, we need to remember that these tribes are part of our shared humanity, and their unique cultures are worth preserving and protecting, too