Surviving CivilizationJulia Knobloch
The existence of a previously uncontacted indigenous tribehas been confirmed in the Southwest region of the Amazon, officials from the Brazilian agency FUNAI (National Foundation for the Indigene) confirmed recently. According to FUNAI’s spokesperson, Fabricio Amorim, roughly 200, possibly Pano speaking people live in four straw dwellings erected on three clearings. They were observed to grow corn, bananas and peanuts, amongst other crops. As reported by RS in February, satellite pictures first suggested the existence of the tribe that was finally spotted during an overflight this April.
Amorim, who took part in the monitoring expedition, expressed his general concerns about the survival chances of isolated populations: “Among the main threats to the well-being of these groups are illegal fishing, hunting, logging, mining, cattle ranching, missionary actions and border crossing issues like drug trafficking.” Furthermore, Amorim pointed out that, in this case, the indigenous way of life also faces threat from oil exploration in nearby Peru, as this could impact the preservation area of the Vale do Javari.
The Javari Valley is considered the region with the highest concentration of isolated communities in the Amazon, and the world, FUNAI sources say. 14 out of 68 tribes – approximately 2000 people - are supposed to live here, in a territory about half the size of Florida.
In fact, some of Brazil’s indigenous populations have existed almost completely isolated ever since the arrival of the conquerors, a time that in Portuguese is called “era of the discovery”. For over 500 years, those Indians have maintained their traditions and followed their ancestors’ lifestyle. Even FUNAI knows very little about them. But cautious studies and a growing consciousness have shown that the most important conditions for their physical and cultural survival are the
demarcation of their lands, and the protection of their living environment.
In accordance with FUNAI’s policies, no direct contact has been established with the newly discovered tribe. The reason for this is that, in addition to the above-mentioned dangers, there is another factor that puts their survival at risk: in the past, indigenous tribes have recurrently succumbed to diseases transported by outsiders.
Here is a video of a tribe member explaining what happened when they first made contact with “civilization”: