The world today is amazing isn’t it. We have grocery stores that give us the option to chose what and when we eat, we’ve got doctors that can help us when we are sick or want to modify our bodies, and we have homes that protect us from the elements and keep us safe from outside threats. Our lives on this planet can be so amazing that a large chunk of our population is more worried about a dead cell phone battery, or what shoes matches their outfit, rather than if they are going to eat or stay safe for the night. But with our lives being so convenient we often over look the process of how we got there. How did we go from being vulnerable to extreme weather, to being able to control the temperature in our homes? How did we go from hunting and gathering available fauna and flora, to having the option of choosing our diets? Everything that makes our life’s so amazing and accessible happened over many years of trial and error. With a nice dash of luck and a willingness to learn and adapt, our early ancestors had to discover and decide what make’s their life better. They built early civilization on the idea of working smarter not harder. With todays world being so connected with trading information and cultivating resources it is hard to believe that there are groups of people that live in isolated parts that still live like their very early ancestors, and I’m not talking about practicing a few of the cultural dances on special occasions, but full out live the way before farming or wearing clothes was even a thought. There are people out there that have very little knowledge and zero contact with the outside world. Those people are absolutely wild and intriguing but very difficult and dangerous to reach. These are the people that show us who we once where. These people are the uncontacted.
Who are the uncontacted? The uncontacted is a general term that is used to describe native tribes from all over the world that have been untouched by modern civilization. There are roughly 100 uncontacted tribes left today in the known world. Each tribe with their own set of beliefs, practices, and way of living. Some are very peaceful, and some are very aggressive. Others practice cannibalism and self mutilation, and some embrace the sun and moon as gods. Tribes like the Sentinelese have been isolated for so long that they have yet to discover fire and they will go into full genital swinging war mode at any sign of the outside world. Tribes that were previously classified as “uncontacted” and have recently come out of isolation, to receive medical help or to adopt a more modern way of living, are our best chance of trying to understand and relate to the tribes that remain uncontacted. When we think of these tribes we must remember that these are people that don’t have an alphabet, a number system, or any kind of agriculture, these people live like we did before any kind of industrialization. These tribes use their surroundings and the natural world as a way to navigate. They sing songs and use animal like noises as a way to communicate, they use the resources at their feet to build the same life their parents built for them. Everything they know is what they see, to them we are the aliens from a different planet and their little chunk of land is the only thing that makes sense to them. These uncontacted tribes are found in many parts of the world, but many are expected to live along the Amazon River through South America, but some have been spotted on small islands between India and Myanmar. There have been speculations of uncontacted tribes in Siberia, but regardless of where on the globe they reside the question remains the same. When and how will these tribes make first contact?
With these tribes being so isolated and having little to no knowledge of the outside world makes first contact very difficult and dangerous, not only for the professionals that want to observe them but also for the tribe. One of the greatest risks that is faced when making first contact is illness. With having no contact with the outside world these tribe people have not had the chance to come into contact with the bacteria and parasites that build a strong immune system, and just a common cold could wipe out the whole group stopping the anthropologist and researchers dead in their tracks. Another risk of making first contact is the potential of attack. With these tribes not knowing what our intentions are and having no way to communicate with them makes it incredibly dangerous. It also doesn’t help that when most scientists and research crews go out on their missions they bring large mysterious objects like cameras and brief cases full of notes, throwing the tribe people into a rambling defence. But the ugly truth is that these tribes fear us more then we fear them, and for good reason.
With an only estimated 100 uncontacted tribes left in the world it makes you wonder what happened to all the other tribes? Well some tribes came out of isolation on their own terms in search of a more convenient life filled with medicine and tools. Some tribes met early explorers and decided that life in the sticks was better suited for them then what the “white man” had to offer. But most of the tribes that roamed freely and uncontacted from the outside world have a very different story. In the early 20th century rubber and logging corporations moved through the Amazon rainforest seeking the resources that lay within. During this process they encountered many tribes, if those tribes where not wiped out by illness or killed by the corporations hired guns, they where enslaved leaving an undoubtably bad view of the outsiders in the remaining tribes people eyes. The genocide of these tribes that came along with the deforestation was so large that roughly 90% of all native tribes in the Amazon where wiped out leaving us kicking ourselves in the ass because these people taught us and still do teach us so much about who we all once were. They can help us fill in missing gaps on how life was during different evolutionary periods.
What is happening now with these ancient tribes, and what does the future look like for them? After the mass deforestation and killing of the natives in the 20th century the remaining tribes, uncontacted or contacted, are protected fully with government and private organizations like FUNAI. These organizations encourage the indigenous people to live the same way they have been living for so many years. They supply the tribes with tools and medicine to help better their life’s, which some anthropologist believe is contradicting in preserving their way of life but, the organizations and governments do an amazing job of protecting them from future attacks by military, drug cartels, and corporations. But with these native tribes being so well protected there is a bit of controversy coming from the residents of small villages and workers of the organizations. With 100 FUNAI workers being killed between 2006 and 2014 and many attacks on the villages the people want the laws to change so they can defend them selves from aggressive intruding tribes. [JK1] Monte Salvado a village along the Amazon River has been attacked several times from a local native tribe, and with laws against harming (even in protection) the natives, these villagers face incredible difficulty finding ethical ways to deal with the attacks, and just for clarity these attacks are full blown viscous attacks with many casualties on the villager’s side. The village leaders have been said to retaliate with destroying the tribes people’s weapons and tools. This in turn made the natives come out of the woods and seek help from the outside world. The future of the remaining uncontacted tribes is uncertain, but it is interesting to think about what will happen. With an ever-expanding world it is just a matter of time before these tribes get confronted with the outside, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Think about it, in the next 50 years there could be a member of a recently uncontacted tribe studying math and learning how to read. That would be huge for them as people and insanely beneficial to us as humans not only to communicate with people who just recently lived like our ancient ancestors but also because its another mind and voice in the world that has the potential to change everything.
Stay wild and stay curious.