The Complex Issue Of Reaching Out To Uncontacted Tribes

The world is uber connected today. It seems like it's just as easy to see your neighbor as it is to see you friend who lives half-way around the world. Facetime, Facebook, Skype — there's no shortage of ways to stay in contact. So it's easy to forget that there are still plenty of tribes of the world that are "uncontacted," and many avoid interactions with civilization because they've been the victims of violence in the past.

Who Are They?

Researchers estimate that there are more than 100 uncontacted peoples remaining in the world, most of them located in Brazil. The word "uncontacted" can be slightly misleading, however: most of these tribes have indeed encountered outsiders, whether they were missionaries, miners, explorers, or even pilots in planes or helicopters. The debate over whether we should reach out to these peoples is a complex one. Countries have put laws and reserves in place to prevent trespassing onto their lands, but loggers and oil workers are often exempt from these restrictions. One big concern is disease, as the members of these tribes often don't have immunity to certain dangerous illnesses.

Would They Come Out Of Isolation?

Some might by choice, others might have to, according to New Scientist. When settlements are moved in on by civilization, in the form of bulldozing land or harassing members of the tribe, they might choose to end their isolation. But sometimes it happens for more positive reasons. "As soon as the tribes believe they might have some peaceful contact, all these groups want some outside interaction," Kim Hill, an anthropologist at Arizona State University, told New Scientist. "It's a human trait to want to expand our contacts."

Should We Contact Uncontacted Peoples?

Key Facts In This Video

  1. When European explorers came to the Americas, they ultimately killed more than 50 million Native Americans. 00:18

  2. Some countries have created reserves to discourage trespassing and interaction with indigenous peoples, though they haven't strongly reinforced these policies. 01:24

  3. Some people believe that we should leave isolated peoples alone until they decide to initiate contact. 02:14

How Many Isolated Tribes Still Exist Today?

Meet An Isolated Amazon Tribe

Written by Curiosity Staff April 26, 2016

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