Uncontacted Indian Tribes; Big News in Brazil

According to the Associated Press on Thursday Brazil has released photographs of one of their last uncontacted indigenous tribes located in the far western Amazon near the border of Peru. 

Roughly a dozen Natives were photographed in the Jungles of Brazil amongst six grass huts.  The stories claim that Anthropologists have known about this tribe for some 20 years.  I immediately have to wonder if this is the same tribe that Sydney Possuelo spoke about in National Geographic in 2003 whom he called the Fletchero, or “arrow makers.”  I’m inclined to make an educated guess and say that they are. 

The pictures show a half dozen or so men in red paint shooting their arrows at the aircraft as it flies overhead.  Beside them in a couple of the pictures are two other people wearing black paint. The men in red are obviously the community’s warriors.  The two people in black are women. 

In 2003 when Possuelo spoke to National Geographic about the Fletchero, he theorized that they, like many other Amazonian Indians may in fact be the descendants of refugees of European expansionism who fled the Spanish invasion for homes deeper in the jungles.  If this is true, what must these natives think about the outside world?

 As we know Native peoples maintain their histories for countless generations in oral traditions and folklore.  When they teach their children about the outside world do they recite the Native experience as we know them to be?  I wonder if they recount the horrors experienced by their ancestors at the hands of the corrupt conquistadores and the deadly diseases unleashed against their people.  Is it any wonder that they shoot arrows at the strangers who buzz their village in a huge mechanized monster bird?  What legends, warnings and taboos have grown up around this tribe’s choice to exclude themselves from interaction with the outside world?

And herein lies the outsider’s dilemma; to contact or to NOT contact this tribe.  For a number of years FUNAI in Brazil has had a no contact policy for these Indians, and I certainly appreciate that.  The last thing we need are the eager missionaries pushing their way into the jungles hoping to secure more converts, blazing a trail for logging companies and real estate speculators to come in right behind them and exploit their new human resources.  And as if that isn’t bad enough Indian rights activist Miriam Ross, makes the point; 

First contact is often completely catastrophic for “uncontacted” tribes. It’s not unusual for 50 percent of the tribe to die in months after first contact … They don’t generally have immunity to diseases common to outside society. Colds and flu that aren’t usually fatal to us can completely wipe them out.

As an Indian, mixed-blood as I may be, I feel great joy in knowing there are a few of us left who still live the old way.  But I also feel great sadness over this because I realize just how few of them there really are … what maybe a few dozen?
Jose Carlos Meirelles, coordinator for Brazil’s National Indian Foundation says; “We put the photos out because if things continue the way they are going, these people are going to disappear.”

I hear you brother.  I hear you.

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12 Responses

  1. This story captivated me too. Making contact would be selfish of us and possibly disastrous to them. I had thought the shock would be harmful enough, but Ross’ point about how a simple cold could wipe them out is scary indeed.

  2. Yes truly amazing…They need to be protected, they are our history, their area needs to be preserved, they need to be preserved. The original people that lived in our land, it is a gift that they are still around!…tnx for the comment!

  3. no, they’re not the same people as the flexeiros, these have only just been seen. funai published the pics because so many people, particaularly the govs of neighbouring countries, deny the existence of people living independently from more recently established societies.
    i’ve talked to people who lived thru first encounters with non-indios, and it was horrible, so it’s good that funai’s policy is now not to make contact, but to maintain these communities’ dignity and autonomy by identifying and protecting their lands.
    pity they can’t always do the same for the peoples who are already being wrecked by exposure to the brazilian hunger for power and wealth.
    thanks for posting this story!

  4. […] and articles have been posted regarding the uncontacted Indians in Brazil.  I myself posted an article on this subject.  How wonderful it truly is to know that there are still some free Indians living their traditional […]

  5. […] Something Sublime (Deryn Mentock) Pink Zinnias (Melissa Meman) Nomadic Creations (Stacie Florer) Dragonfly Enchantment (Dinah Powers) God Drinks Beer (Jay Moody) […]

  6. baraitalo
    brazilian hunger for power and wealth?!?!?!

    We are preservin ancient tribes, and your country invedes Iraque, Nicaragua, Vietnan!
    tsc tsc

  7. “Julie Christie tells the story of the Akuntsu’s genocide. The Akuntsu continue to live in fear of the threats that surround them. Please act to have their lands secured”
    Act now to help the Akuntsu: http://www.survival-international.org/tribes/akuntsu

  8. The “men” in black are young women wearing a characteristic body painting used by indian women of Kayapo ethnicity.

  9. The problem with NOT contacting this tribe with a plan in hand is that the individuals responsible for rain forest devastation might find them – most likely unintentionally – causing a disastrous result way worse than 50% survival.

  10. (Unfortunately, their land sits in the path of the devastation front…)

  11. It is so wonderful to know we live in a world where there are still ancient tribes. I fear my grandchildren will not know such a world.

  12. May the “Fletchero” survive, expand and we leave them be, until we become disease less! Then we can then learn from them and some of us can become more like them!

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