MYTH: They are living in the ‘Stone Age’
All Peoples are changing all the time and always have, including uncontacted tribes. Survival doesn’t talk about ‘pristine’ tribes or cultures. They are not backward or ‘Stone Age’, they just live differently.
MYTH: Reports of uncontacted tribes are faked
Some ‘first contacts’ are acts for the benefit of tourists, but there are actually quite a lot of real uncontacted tribes, and more are ‘discovered’ all the time. Sometimes, they are surprisingly close to people who’ve been in contact for decades, or longer.
MYTH: They can’t be left alone forever
Whose choice should it be, theirs or ‘ours’? If a people chooses to make contact with wider society, they’ll find a way. The problem is that the belief that they are primitive and incapable of deciding for themselves is still widespread.
MYTH: If they are contacted, they can have the benefits of ‘our’ way of life
They won’t get the chance. In reality, the future offered by settler society is to ‘join’ at the lowest possible level – often as beggars and prostitutes. History proves that tribal Peoples usually end up in a far worse state after contact, often dead.
What are ‘undiscovered’ or ‘lost’ tribes?
This is empty sensationalism. It’s extremely unlikely there are any tribes whose existence is totally unknown to anyone else.
What do you mean by ‘uncontacted’?
Peoples who have no peaceful contact with anyone in the mainstream or dominant society. There are about 100 uncontacted tribes in the world.
Does that mean they have no contact with anyone else at all?
No. Everyone has neighbours, even when they’re some distance away, and they’ll know who they are. If it’s another tribe, perhaps also uncontacted, they may or may not have friendly relations with them.
Will they ever have been in contact?
In some cases, probably. Some may have been in touch with the colonist society in the past, even in past centuries, and then retreated from the violence which that brought. Some may once have been part of larger tribal groups, and split off and moved away, fleeing contact.
Some who now grow no crops, but rely purely on gathering wild foods, may have had vegetable gardens in the past. They may have stopped cultivating because of the need to flee the encroaching society.
So they aren’t necessarily living as they were in past centuries?
No one is. Some Amazonian groups even had guns, from intertribal trading, before they’d ever met a non-Indian. Most uncontacted tribes have used some metal tools, which they have found, stolen or traded with their neighbours, for many years or even generations. Uncontacted peoples in the Andaman Islands use bits of metal from old shipwrecks, and so forth. Sweet potato, the staple for some Polynesian tribes well before their contact with Europeans, in fact came from South America.
So are there any pristine societies?
All peoples are changing all the time and always have, including uncontacted tribes. Survival doesn’t talk about ‘pristine’ tribes or cultures. They are not backward or ‘Stone Age’, they just live differently.’
- Uncontacted Tribe in Brazil Missing (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- Canadian oil company threatens the survival of Peru’s ‘Jaguar people’ (theecologist.org)