Our world of cell phones and lightning-fast internet connections makes it difficult to imagine that some people live in such isolated places that they have never had contact with the modern world.
But a new uncontacted Amazon tribe in Brazil was discovered and recently confirmed by National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) of Brazil, a government body overseeing indigenous peoples. The tribe, located in the Javari Valley in the western Amazon, is believed to have around 200 members. Their existence was initially discovered through satellite images earlier this year. A team of examiners in an aerial flight over the area took photographs that offer a glimpse into the tribe’s lifestyle.
According of Fabricio Amorim of FUNAI who led the overflight expedition, the tribal people were growing corn, bananas, peanuts, and other crops. According to Survival International, the Javari Valley has the highest concentration of uncontacted tribes in the world. National Geographic reports that around 8 to 14 uncontacted indigenous communities, with approximately 2,000 people, are there.
FUNAI discourages seeking contact with these tribes for a number of reasons. History has proven time and time again that indigenous tribes suffer when outsiders thrust “civilization” upon them. Even well-intentioned contact can destroy these cultures.
Many tribes, lacking immunity to common diseases, are decimated by illnesses that we take for granted. For example, entire Native American tribes died of chickenpox or the common cold when Europeans settled the continent. The survivors are inevitably forced to give up their way of life and live disenfranchised lives on the outskirts of society. For example, the Andaman Islanders in India who live on colonized islands have become dependent on government handouts just to survive. Their uncontacted neighbors, the Sentinelese, violently repel any potential visitors. According to aerial photographs, they appear to be a thriving society.
FUNAI has adopted policies to protect the tribes from any intruders, well-intentioned or otherwise. The organization has set up seven reservations in Brazil to protect uncontacted peoples. If the tribes wish to make contact with “civilization”, they are allowed to do so on their own terms.