Uncontacted peoples

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Uncontacted peoples are peoples who, either by choice or chance, live, or have lived, without significant contact with the connected civilizations of the world.

Recent usage favors the term "isolated" rather than "uncontacted" as few peoples have remained totally uncontacted by modern civilization, but a number have chosen to make contact either exceedingly difficult or dangerous. Many indigenous rights activists call for such groups to be left alone in respect of their right to self-determination.

A problem with making contact with isolated peoples is that they lack any immunity to common diseases which explorers, trying to make contact with them, will inevitably carry. This can have severe consequences as normally minor diseases, such as the chicken pox, can be deadly when no natural immunity exists.[1]


[edit] Asia

Large areas of New Guinea are yet to be explored by scientists and anthropologists due to a lack of safety. Most of the occurrences there are not confirmed. The province of Irian Jaya or West Papua in the island of New Guinea is home to an estimated 44 uncontacted tribal groups.[2]

In India, two tribes of the Andaman Islands have sought to avoid contact with the outside world; one of them, the Sentinelese, continue to actively and violently reject it. They live on North Sentinel island, a small and remote island which lies to the west of the southern part of South Andaman Island. They are thought to number around 250 (median estimate). Another Andamanese tribe, the Jarawa live on the mainland. They did reject all contact until recently but following the completion of a trunk road traversing their territory in 1997, some of them have begun emerging from the forest begging for food. They are thought to number 300 persons.

In the 1970s, an unknown tribe in the Philippines was supposedly discovered, known as the Tasaday. However, the authenticity of the Tasaday as a formerly uncontacted group is questionable.[3]

[edit] Australia

In 1984, a group of Pintupi people who were living a traditional hunter-gatherer desert-dwelling life were tracked down in the Gibson Desert in Western Australia and made contact for the first time with European-Australian society. They are believed to be the last uncontacted tribe in Australia.[4]

[edit] North America

[edit] Florida

The Seminole Wars pushed the Florida’s Native Americans farther south and directly into the Everglades swamps. Between the end of the last Seminole War and 1930, the Seminole tribe lived isolated from Florida society and the rest of the world.[5]

[edit] California

Ishi is believed to be the last Native American in Northern California to have lived the bulk of his life completely outside the European American culture. In August 1911, he emerged from the wild near Oroville, California, leaving his ancestral homeland in the foothills near Lassen Peak.[6]

[edit] Mexico

The Lacandon were the last isolated peoples in North America, having been contacted only in 1924.

[edit] South America

On 18 January 2007, FUNAI reported that it had confirmed the presence of 67 different uncontacted tribes in Brazil, up from 40 in 2005.[7] With this addition Brazil has now overtaken the island of New Guinea as the country having the largest number of uncontacted tribes.

[edit] Bolivia

As of 2006, the presence of 5 uncontacted groups was confirmed in Bolivia. A further 3 are to be confirmed. Those uncontacted groups whose presence has been confirmed are: Ayoreo in Parque Nacional Kaa Iya Mbya-Yuqui in Yuqui Reservation and Rio Usurinta (most of the Yuqui are now contacted, only a few families remain uncontacted), Yurakare in Santa Cruz and Beni, Pacahuara in the Chacobo reservation and Araona in the Araona Reservation. The presence of other groups such as Toromona in the Parque Nacional Madidi, Nahua in the PN Madidi and Esse Ejja in the Peruvian border are yet to be confirmed.

Name Pop (Est) Location Commentary
Sinabo/Kapuibo (Nahua) <200 Between Lower Beni and Lower Yata
  • Pano. Related to the Chakobo.
  • Some sources question their existence.
Yanaigua 100 - 200 Between the Rio Grande and Upper San Miguel
  • Pano according to some, more likely Tupi-Guarani related to the Yuqui.
  • Mainly hunter-gatherers.
  • They live on the Guarayos forest reserve.
Yuqui 100 Between Upper Ichilo and Upper Yapacani
  • Tupi-Guarani.
  • Small uncontacted group of Yuqui. Mainly hunter-gatherers.
  • They live in the Amboro national park.

[edit] Brazil

Brazil is the country with the largest number of uncontacted groups in the world. The seven Terras Indígenas (Reservations) exclusively reserved for isolated people are:

Uncontacted groups living in other people's TIs are:

  • TI Awá in Maranhão - Awá.
  • TI Avá Canoeiro in Goiás - Avá Canoeiro.
  • TI Arara do Rio Branco in Mato Grosso - Isolados da margem esquerda do médio Rio Roosevelt/Rio Branco.
  • PI Aripuanã in Rondônia - Isolados da margem esquerda do médio Rio Aripuanã, Isolados do Río Pacutinga/Aripuanã, Isolados do Médio Rio Branco do Aripuanã.
  • TI Bujiwa in Amazonas.
  • TI Caru in Maranhão- Awá (Isolados do igarapé Água Branca).
  • TI Kampa e Isolados do Rio Envira in Acre - Isolados do rio Envira.
  • TI Kaxinawa do Rio Humaitá in Acre - Unidentified.
  • TI Koatinemo in Pará - Unidentified.
  • TI Menkragnoti in Pará - Mengra Mrari.
  • TI Raposa Serra do Sol in Roraima - Unidentified, Discovered in 2006. Near Monte Roraima and Monte Caburaí (2 to 4 km from Brazil-Venezuela-Guyana tri-junction).
  • TI Mamoadate in Acre - Mashko (Isolados do Alto Iaco).
  • TI Jaminahua-Envira - Isolados das cabeceiras do rio Jaminaua. (Part of Papavo)
  • TI Riozinho do Alto Envira in Acre - Isolados do Riozinho/Envira. (Part of Papavo)
  • TI Rio Teá in Amazonas - Four bands of Nadeb(???): Cabeceira dos rios Waranaçu e Gururu, Médio rio Tiquié, Cabeceiras dos rios Curicuriari e Dji and Cabeceiras do rio Teá. Two more bands nearby in Eneiuxi (Médio rio Eneiuxi) and Urubaxi (Cabeceira do rio Urubaxi e Bafuanã) are possibly Nedeb (Given as Nadeb in the table).
  • PI Tumucumaque in Pará - Akurio.
  • TI Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau in Rondônia - 4 to 6 groups of isolated people, Including Isolados das cabeceiras do rio Muqui, Isolados do rio Cautário, Cabeceiras do rio Água Branca and Jururei.
  • TI Vale do Javari in Amazonas - 7 groups of isolated people: Cabeceiras de Santana e igarapé Flexeira, Korubo, Isolados do Coari-Río Branco, Isolados do rio Quixito, Isolados do Rio Jandiatuba, Isolados do Rio Jutaí e Isolados dos rios Jaquirana/Amburus.
  • TI Waimiri Atroari in Amazonas - Formadores do rio Alalaú (Piriutiti) & Formadores do rio Jatapu (Karafawyana or Chamakoto).
  • TI Xikrin do Cateté in Pará -
  • TI Araribóia in Mato Grosso - Isolados dos rios Buriticupu e Taruparu.
  • TI Cuminapanema - Zo’é.
  • TI Tanaru - Only one individual, the "Tanaru Isolated Indian." Remaining members of the tribe massacred.
Name Pop (Est) Location Commentary
Apiaká >100 Mato Grosso - Between Lower Juruena and Lower Teles Pires
  • Tupi-Guarani.
  • Isolated Apiaká group.
  • Were massacred some time ago.
Apurinã >50 Amazonas - Upper rio Sepatini Arawak.
Aruá 75 at most Rondônia
  • Tupi-Mondé
  • Between the rios Mequens and Colorado
  • Living over both the Rio Branco I.T. and the Guaporé B.R.
  • Rio São Miguel
  • Outside reserves.
  • Area invaded by loggers.
  • Frequent fighting.
Ava-Canoeiros 30 Goiás - Sources of the Tocantins
  • Tupi-Guarani.
  • Small groups of highly mobile hunter-gatherers.
Guaja 120 [already counted among the known group] Maranhão - Scattered throughout the western part of the state
  • Tupi-Guarani.
  • Small groups of highly mobile hunter-gatherers (even after contact).
  • They have their own I.T. but also move in and out of several other reserves.
Ingarune ~100 North Pará - Rio Cuminapanema and Paru de Oeste
  • Karib.
  • Related to the Kachuyana.
  • Existence confirmed by the Poturuyar (recently contacted Tupi-Guarani). They live within the latter's I.T.
Kanibo (Mayo) 120 to 150 Rio Quixito, Javari Basin, Amazonas Probably Pano.
  • Several unsuccessful official contacts.
  • Occasional contacts with loggers.
Kaniwa (Korubo) 300 9 malocas in Between Lower Ituí and Lower Itacuaí, Amazonas Pano.
  • Occasional contacts.
  • Hostile.
Karafawyana and other isolated Carib tribes. 400 to 500 Four locations in Roraima and north Pará.
  • (1) Source of the Jatapu.
  • (2) Rio Urucurina, tributary of the Mapuera.
  • (3) Rio Kafuini, tributary of the Trombetas.
  • (4) Upper Turuna, tributary of the Trombetas.
Mostly Cariban.
  • (1) Karib, Parukoto-Charuma sub-group.
  • (2) Related to the Waiwai.
  • (3) Some individuals visit Waiwai communities without warning the authorities. This is how they obtain their metal tools.
  • (4) Partly in the Trombetas-Mapuera I.T.
Karitiana 50 - 100 Upper Rio Candeias, Rondônia. Tupi-Arikem. Identified by the small group that has been contacted.
Katawixi 50 Upper Rio Muquim, tributary of the Purus, Amazonas. Isolated language. One community only has been located.
Kayapó do Rio Liberdade >100 Lower Rio Liberdade, northern Mato Grosso. Gé. Identified by other Kayapó towards whom they are hostile.
Kayapó-Pu'ro 100 Lower Rio Curuá, South Pará. Kayapó. Group which has broken away from the Mekragnoti since 1940. Outside Kayapó I.T.
Kayapó-Pituiaro 200 Rio Murure, South Pará. Kayapó. Group which has broken away from the Kuben-kranken since 1950. Partly outside Kayapó I.T.
Kayapó-Kararao ~50 Lower Rio Guajara, South Pará. Kayapó. Group which has broken away from the Kararao. Struggles are part of their traditions.
Kulina ? Rio Curuça, tributary of the Javari, Amazonas. Arawak. Small isolate communities belonging to the big Kulina group.
Maku (Nadeb) ~100 Uneiuxi and Urubaxi Basins, Amazonas. Isolated language. Isolated elements of Maku groups that have already been contacted. Hunter-gatherers.
Mamaindé 50 - 100 Upper Rio Corumbiara, Rondônia. Isolated language. Isolated group of Nambikwara. A no-entry zone was allocated and then cancelled under local pressure. Recently massacred.
Hi-Merimã 1,500 Riozinho, tributary of the Cuniuã, Purus Basin, Amazonas. Arawak(?). Were massacred in 1986. Their area has recently been declared protected.
Mayoruna 200 to 300 3 locations in Amazonas:
  1. Rio Batã, source of the Javari.
  2. Rio Pardo.
  3. Between the Pardo and middle Javari.
Pano. Small isolated communities of the large Mayoruna group.
Miqueleno (Cujubi) ? Upper Rio São Miguel, Rondônia Isolated Chapakura language. Area invaded by loggers. Recently massacred.
Nereyana ~100 Rio Panama, headwaters of Paru do Oeste, North Pará. Karib. Perhaps more closely related to the Kachuyana than to the Tiriyo.
Pacaás Novos
  • (2) Oromawin sugroup
~150 Serra dos Pacaás Novos, Rondônia.
  • (2) Source of the Rio Formoso, Rondônia.
Isolated Chapakura language. Isolated groups belonging to the major Pacaás Novos group. Included in the Uru-eu-wau-wau I.T.
  • (2) Neighbouring one of the Pacaás Novos I.T.
Papavo Supergroup, which includes:
  1. Mashco/Harakmbet
  2. Culina
  3. Amahuaca
  4. Yawanahua
>400 Acre (Scattered over a single large territory)
  • (1) Rio Breu, headwaters of the Upper Jurua.
  • (2,3,4) Between the sources of the Envira and the Muru, and Igarapé Xinané, tributary of the Purus, overflowing into Peru.
Many isolated communities belonging to 4 distinct groups. Struggling is part of their traditions: reciprocal hostile contacts with the Kampa (whom they plunder), and peaceful ones with the Kulina; they plunder the loggers' encampments.
  • (1) Isolated language - On the extractivist reserve of Alto Jurua.
  • (2,3,4)-(2) Arawakan, (3,4) Panoan - Two I.T. have been set up for them.
Pariuaia >100 Rio Bararati, tributary of the Lower Juruena, Amazonas. Probably Tupi-Kawahib, Tupi-Guarani. Have refused all contact since 1930.
Piriutiti 100 to 200 Rio Curiau, Amazonas. Related to the Waimiri-Atroari (Karib). Some live in, others outside, the latter's I.T.
Sateré ? Rio Parauari, tributary of the Maués-açu, Amazonas. Tupi. Communities that split away from the Sateré-Maué a long time ago.
Tupi-Kawahib (Piripicura) 200 to 300 Between the Madeirinha and Roosevelt rivers, northern Mato Grosso. Tupi-Guarani. A no-entry zone has just been allocated for them.
Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau 300 Serra dos Pakaás-Novas, Rondônia. Tupi-Guarani. There remain over 3 uncontacted groups. Several hostile encounters with gold-seekers and loggers. All are included in the vast Uru-eu-wau-wau I.T.
Wayãpi (Yawãpi) 100 to 150 Upper Ipitinga, between the Jari and the Paru do Leste, northern Pará. Tupi-Guarani. Group which formerly broke away from the Southern Wayãpi.
Yakarawakta 20 - 30 Between the Rios Aripuanã and Juruena, Mato Grosso Norte. Tupi-Guarani. Probably an Apiaka sub-group.
Yanomami 300 Amazonas
  • (1) Upper Marauia
  • (2) Between the Demini and the Catrimani
  • (1) Within the I.T.
  • (2) Isolated communities ; probably outside the I.T., but within the Rio Branco National Park.
name unknown ~100 Between the Upper Amapari and Upper Oiapoque, Amapa. Unspecified linguistic family. According to the Southern Wayãpi, a group that formerly broke away from them. According to the Northern Wayãpi, one of their former enemy groups, the Tapüiy.
name unknown (Isolados do Jandiatuba) 300 Between the Upper Jandiatuba and the Itacuaí, Amazonas. Maybe a Katukina group.
name unknown (Isolados do São José) 300 Igarapé São José, tributary of the Itacuaí, Amazonas. Seems to be a group distinct from Isolados do Jandiatuba.
name unknown ? Igarapé Recreio, Cruzeiro do Sul municipality, Upper Juruá, Acre. Panoan(?)
name unknown (Isolados do Igarapé Tueré) ? Igarapé Tueré, tributary of the Itacaiúnas, Pará. Tupi(?)
name unknown (Isolados do Arama e Inaui) ~100 South of Rio Inauini, Purus Basin, Amazonas. ?
name unknown (Isolados do Igarapé Umari) ? Igarapé Umari, tributary of the Ituxi, Amazonas. ?
name unknown (Isolados da Serra do Taquaral) ? Serra do Taquaral, source of the Rio Branco, Rondônia. ?

[edit] Colombia

Despite ongoing paramilitary conflict in Colombia, it is the country which offers the maximum protection for isolated groups. Carabayo-Aroje is the most important group, living in the Parque Nacional del Rio Pure. It is not known whether any Yari survives now. Nukaak Maku were contacted in 2003 and 65% of the tribal members died of disease. Around 2-3 dozen Nukaak still remain isolated.

Name Pop (Est) Location Commentary
Karabayo 150 Amazonas - Source of the Purué River, north of the Putumayo River
  • Isolated language.
  • Thought to be Maku, but more likely Yuri.
  • Overstepping the Brazilian border.
  • Hostile.
Guaviare Macusa (Now Nukaak Maku) 300 Guainia - Between the Guaviare River and the Inírida River
  • Isolated language.
  • Isolated Maku.
  • Small mobile groups of hunter-gatherers.
  • Recently contacted. Now about 50 remain uncontacted. Population fell from 800 to 300 in just one year. Contacted group under siege from FARC and New Tribes Mission and living in refugee camps.
name unknown (Isolados dos Rio Yari) ? Caqueta - Upper Rio Yari
  • Karib or isolated language?
  • Karijona or Witoto sub-group.
  • Live in the Chiribiquete national park.

[edit] Ecuador

It is not known whether any Tagaeri survives now in Yasuni National Park. In the 1990s when a member of Tagaeri was contacted by a lone Huaorani hunter, he told him that Tagaeri numbers only a handful of members and are in danger of being wiped out by their hostile neighbours - the Taromenane. Since then there have been no more peaceful contacts. The Tagaeri hunter also mentioned about another group, the Oñamenane who numbered 5-6 individuals and there was one more tribe - the Huiñatare. In 2003 about 30 Taromenane were massacred by the Huaorani in retaliation for the killing of a Huaorani hunter. In the same year 14 Tagaeri were killed by loggers. In April 2006 a logger was speared to death by the Taromenane (in 2005 another one was also killed by the same tribe, whose body was later found embedded with 30 spears and his face unrecognizable). In the same month a further 30 Taromenane and 10 loggers were killed in conflicts according to leader Iki Ima Omene (of Huaorani). In Jan 2007 the president of Ecuador declared the Southern part of Yasuni a forbidden zone (7,580 square kilometers) in order to protect the uncontacted people. At the same time CONAIE reported that there are a total of 150-300 Taromenane (divided into 2 sub-tribes) and 20-30 Tagaeri surviving uncontacted there. The Oñamenane and Huiñatare are extinct. There are unconfirmed reports of uncontacted tribespeople in the border with Peru. Despite the good news, Ecuador continues to be the country with the largest number of uncontacted people massacred since 2000.

Name Pop (Est) Location Commentary
Huaorani 100 - 200 Oriente - Between the Upper Napo and Upper Curaray
  • Isolated language.
  • Segment hostile to the Waorani. Threatened by the advancing front of oil prospection.

[edit] Guyana

Name Pop (Est) Location Commentary
Wapishana 100 Between the sources of the Essequibo River and the Tacutu River; Serra Acarai
  • Arawak.
  • Isolated segment of the Wapishana group.
  • They refuse all contact.
name unknown ~100 Between the Upper Courantyne and the New River
  • Karib.
  • Maybe related to the Tiriyo.

[edit] French Guiana

Name Pop (Est) Location Commentary
Wayãpi 100 Between the Eureupoucine and the Upper Camopi
  • Tupi-Guarani.
  • Group that broke away from the Wayãpi of Upper Oyapock around 1900.
  • They refuse all contact.

[edit] Peru

There are now five reserves in the Peruvian Amazon meant to protect the lands and rights of isolated peoples. Most of the reserves are currently entered by illegal loggers and petroleum companies with legal concessions to work in those lands, although their activities jeopardize the lives of the isolated populations.

After Brazil (43 uncontacted groups confirmed) and New Guinea (Papua New Guinea and Iriyan Jaya), Peru has the largest number of uncontacted tribes in the world. Some of the groups in Peru are in danger of extermination by loggers. As of 2006, the locations where uncontacted groups are confirmed to be living are as follows:

  • (a) Reserva Comunal Amarakaeri: Groups are Yine, Yora and other unidentified Panoan tribes.
  • (b) Zona Reservada Biabo Cordillera Azul: Cacatibo.
  • (c) Parque Nacional del Manu: Mashco-Piro, uncontacted bands of Matsiguenga, tribes belonging to Yura family and unidentified tribes.
  • (d) Reserva Comunal Asháninka+Reserva Comunal Matsiguenga+Parque Nacional Otishi: uncontacted bands of Ashaninka.
  • (e) Parque Nacional Alto Purús + Reserva Comunal Purús: Sharanahua, Yaminahua, Chitonahua, Curajeño & Mashco-Piro-Iñapari.
  • (f) Reserva Territorial del Estado: Kungapakori, Nahua, Matsiguenga, Nanti, Krineri and other unidentified tribes.
  • (g) Reserva Territorial del Murunahua y Chitonahua: Murunahua, Chitonahua.
  • (h) Reserva Territorial del Isconahua: Isconahua.
  • (i) Reserva Territorial del Mashco-Piro: Various tribes belonging to Mashco-Piro.
  • (j) Reserva Territorial del Mashco-Piro o Iñapari: Mashco-Piro-Iñapari.
  • (k)Reservas territoriales del Cacataibo: Cacataibo.
Name Pop (Est) Location Commentary
Morunahua 150 This group is probably to be related to the group that used to be called Papavo in Brazil.
Parquenahua 200 Pano. They live in the Manu national park.
Pisabo 200 Pano.

[edit] Suriname

Name Pop (Est) Location Commentary
Akulio 50 Watershed between Suriname and Brazil. Between the sources of the Itani and the Jari
  • Karib.
  • Last uncontacted segment of Akulio.
  • They refuse all contact.

[edit] Venezuela

Name Pop (Est) Location Commentary
Yanomami 300 - 400 (already included in the total for Yanomami populations) Amazonas - Upper Siapa

[edit] Paraguay

There remain perhaps as many as 300 Totobiegosode who have not been contacted; they belong to the Ayoreo ethnicity, which numbers around 2,000. In the 1990s the main group attempting to contact them was New Tribes Mission. In 1979 and 1986, the New Tribes Mission was accused of assisting in the forcible contact of nomadic Ayoreo Indians, whose unsuccessful attempts to remain in the forest led to several deaths. Others died soon after being brought out of the forest. The incident forced some Ayoreo to flee to Bolivia. The main threat currently are the ranchers. In 2004 a group of 17 Ayoreo-Totobiegosode previously uncontacted made contact with the outside world and decided to settle down (5 men, 7 women and 5 children, according to Survival). It was not known whether there were any more isolated Ayoreo left in the jungle. But in the first week of September 2007, another uncontacted band of Ayoreo-Totobiegosode were spotted by loggers in the Western Chaco. Ayoreo are believed to be the last uncontacted Indians south of the Amazon basin.[8] In 2008, a Paraguayan ruling blocked a Brazilian company from clearing Totobiegosode to make room for cattle ranches.[9][10]

[edit] Africa

[edit] Popular culture

Uncontacted tribes remain a fascination in Western culture. Recently, the idea of tour operators offering extreme adventure tours to specifically search out uncontacted peoples has become a controversial subject [11]. A BBC Four documentary in 2006 documented a controversial American tour operator who specializes in escorted tours to "discover" uncontacted peoples in West Papua [12] similar to the BBC's own adventure in Papua New Guinea to make their 1971 documentary A Blank on the Map in which the first contact in over a decade was made with the Biami people.[citation needed]

Uncontacted tribes have also emerged in works of literature and film. One of them was The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle released in 1912. It depicts early human hominids in the jungle of South America. Inspired by it, a Russian novel written in 1924, Sannikov Land, describes an island off the Siberian coast populated by an isolated Siberian tribe of Onkilon (another name for non-fictional Yuit thought to be extinct at the time), followed in 1973 by a Soviet movie The Sannikov Land. The 1965 novel Last of the Dogmen and its 1995 film adaptation tell the story of a group of uncontacted Cheyenne discovered living in a remote part of Montana. In the 1991 film At Play in the Fields of the Lord (based on the novel of the same name), an American pilot parachutes from an airplane into the Amazon where he encounters and lives with a previously uncontacted tribe. The 1985 film The Emerald Forest features a Western boy kidnapped by a previously uncontacted Amazonian tribe called the "Invisible People". The 1980 film The Gods Must Be Crazy dealt with a fictitious uncontacted tribe in South Africa. The tribe enjoy idyllic lives until they are set into chaos simply by contact with an object (a Coca-Cola bottle) from modern society. One of the tribe's elders (played by an actual bushman) sets out to throw the bottle off the "edge of the earth" to save his tribe.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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