National Geographic
Menu

Uncontacted Tribe Discovered in Brazilian Amazon

Settlement of an uncontacted indigenous tribe in the Javari Valley, Brazil. Photo courtesy of FUNAI.

Officials from Brazil’s Indian affairs agency, FUNAI, say they have confirmed the existence of a previously unknown indigenous group in the rugged folds of the western Amazon. The tribe, believed to number as many as 200 people, was initially discovered through the examination of satellite images of rain forest clearings and confirmed by aerial reconnaissance flights earlier this year.

The overflights revealed three separate clearings and four large communal dwellings, known as malocas, clustered in the dense jungles of the Javari Valley Indigenous Reserve in far western Brazil. Specialists in matters pertaining to isolated Indians estimate the population of uncontacted tribes by examining the size and number of dwellings, as well as any gardens the inhabitants might have under cultivation. The recently discovered tribe is reported to have planted tracts of corn, banana, and low-to-the-ground bushes that might be peanuts or cassava.

Into the Jungle
The Javari — a sprawling rain forest reserve half the size of Florida — is home to the largest concentration of uncontacted tribes in the entire world. There are at least eight uncontacted indigenous communities, and perhaps as many as fourteen, inhabiting the upland forests in the headwaters of the rivers that drain the Vale do Javari Indigenous Land. It’s an area with which I have more than a passing familiarity. In 2002, I accompanied a team from FUNAI’s elite unit, the Department of Isolated Indians, on a three-month expedition through the reserve’s primeval forest to track a mysterious indigenous tribe known as the flecheiros — the Arrow People.

If true, the news would amount to a strong vindication of Brazil’s policy to locate and protect its isolated tribes. Such groups are highly susceptible to communicable diseases and to cultural dislocation unleashed by contact with the outside world. The Javari reserve is especially well protected from intrusions. The territory is overseen by the Javari Valley Ethno-Environmental Protection Front — administratively part of the Department of Isolated Indians. The Front’s director Fabricio Amorim told the Estado de São Paulo newspaper that the settlement appears to have been built within the past year. The Front operates three control posts along major rivers leading into the depths of the reserve, and the Javari Valley remains a bastion of tribal vitality and a rich repository of biodiversity.

Not the Only Ones
FUNAI has now confirmed the existence of more than two dozen uncontacted tribes within Brazil’s national territory, more than any other country in the world. The Department of Isolated Indians has received reports of dozens of others, but they have yet to be confirmed. Peru comes second, with fourteen or fifteen such groups roaming its Amazonian regions. They are under mounting threat from loggers, gold prospectors, and energy companies exploring for oil in the deep jungle. Peru recently announced new measures to protect its isolated tribes.

Scott Wallace writes about the environment and indigenous affairs for National Geographic and other publications. His forthcoming book, The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes, will be published by Crown in October 2011. For more information, please visit www.scottwallace.com.

 

Comments

  1. Dingbat
    June 4, 11:59 pm

    Why does everybody seem to assume that because we’ve never met these people, they must be getting along great guns???

  2. [...] A total of four houses belonging to the newfound Amazon group—including the one pictured, which is surrounded by banana trees and possible peanut plants—were found in three clearings in Brazil’s Javari Valley Indigenous Reserve. (Related: writer Scott Wallace’s commentary on the discovery of the new tribe.) [...]

  3. Frank
    May 21, 2013, 10:26 pm

    Those tribes are uncontacted from the world, and little do they know that there are organizations protecting them from any intruders. How Ironic. But it is good to leave them uncontacted, and let them live their lives. Plus, there could be many diseases that we don’t want spreading into the outside world. But then again hundreds and thousands of years ago, there were no such thing as vaccines either, and look at us now, we have a 7 billionworld wide population, so it’s not like they are in trouble. But many indians die by getting sick, since they don’t have medical knowledge. Simple diseases are life threatening to them.

    In a way, they live much better than us. They don’t pay any taxes, they farm, hunt, eat, poop, pee, and sleep. They are just one big family helping each other survive. Everybody sees each other naked like it is no big deal.

  4. [...] NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC- Officials from Brazil’s Indian affairs agency, FUNAI, say they have confirmed the existence [...]

  5. Quora
    January 26, 2013, 9:23 am

    Why is so much attention paid to eliminating/alleviating poverty, rather than the negative aspects of being poor? Why do so many people believe the only solution to poor people’s problems is to stop being poor?…

    Settlement of an uncontacted indigenous tribe in the Javari Valley, Brazil. Photo courtesy of FUNAI. Poverty has always been a “problem” in society. Poverty will always exist. Everyone can’t be rich and everyone can’t be poor. Is this really true? …

  6. [...] NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC- Officials from Brazil’s Indian affairs agency, FUNAI, say they have confirmed the existence [...]

  7. [...] weeks ago, FUNAI, Brazil’s Indian Affairs agency announced the confirmed existence of a lost tribe living deep in the Amazon basin.  It is one of at least two dozen located within Brazil’s borders and like the others, has [...]

  8. STG
    Oregon
    July 3, 2012, 2:45 pm

    I love all the ridiculous people on this thread. We have killed the world with our industrialization, we need to go back to focusing on our ecosystem, blah blah blah… YOU ARE ON A COMPUTER OR IPHONE TYPING ON THIS WALL. Want to do something good for the environment? get off the computer, and stop coming to all websites so they stop generating add revenue, but guess what? you wont, and you will continuously bad mouth those whose services you constantly use everyday. I love the world we live in today, everything is easy and I can travel anywhere I want in very little time. Its f***ing great if you ask me

  9. [...] Read more at NationalGeographic.com [...]

  10. kayla
    cariboo burnaby
    December 6, 2011, 12:57 pm

    OMG I would never be caught die living there with no cell phone or computar or anything WOW I would move out right away

  11. Shadow the hedgehog
    North Yorkshire
    July 5, 2011, 6:08 am

    Cooool!

  12. IAMINFIDEL
    July 4, 2011, 2:12 pm

    I am saddened but not surprised by the comments on this article. To keep these human beings isolated from the rest of the world is the deny them their natural law right of free choice.

  13. DORAI
    hyderabad,india
    July 4, 2011, 5:44 am

    WOW TRUE CHILDREN OF NATURE,AND NATURE IS GOD,DO NOT DARE TO SPADE INTO THEIR PROVINCE

  14. haythem djebabra
    algeria
    July 3, 2011, 6:22 am

    i want to live in france

  15. Jack
    Indonesia
    July 2, 2011, 7:15 pm

    They’re UNCONTACTED, Keep it that way !!!
    Why give a CONTACABLE LINK ???

  16. TREECE
    VIRGINIA ,USE
    July 1, 2011, 11:15 am

    LEAVE THEM ALONE. WE WESTERNERS DO NOT NEED TO SPRED OUR GREED AND POLITICS THERE, THEY HAVE LIVED JUST FINE WITHOUT “AMERICAN EYES'” I THOUGHT WE WERE SUPPOSE TO “HOME OF THE FREE”

  17. Bill
    San Angelo, Texas
    July 1, 2011, 7:00 am

    These people would have been further protected had Mr. Scott Wallace and National Geographic practiced self-control and respect and reported on their existence. Now several travel agencies and at least three cruise lines are putting together excursions called, for example, “Amazon Jungle Life: Uncontacted People & Cultures.” With included airfare it’s only $4899 with several 2012 departures. I can’t wait to see the results of their exposure to tourists.

  18. Duane Paul C Anacion
    Philippines
    July 1, 2011, 5:55 am

    For the sake of our Humanity! Protect them in a way that they will never meet their protectors! Never meet them unless when they wanted to and when they want to explore the world outside their own!

  19. slg
    canada
    June 30, 2011, 12:58 pm

    they have been left a lone for this long so leave them be. the only thing for them to survive now is to be ignored by society,so their culture doesnt get rape then lost to their own people.the all mighty dollar sucks for these lucky few tribes for they dnt get to see what we ve all taken part in, that is destroying mother earth . let them be free from us n our eyes for they have done nothing but live without society for thousands of years. let them be. native pride

  20. Katie
    Texas
    June 30, 2011, 11:12 am

    LEAVE THEM ALONE.

  21. Ha Ha
    hahahahville
    June 30, 2011, 10:31 am

    good Lord, look at the moonbat comments on this article.

    so are “humans” a protected species now?? LMAO

    you idiots. without the power consuming, methane producing, greedy internet, you would never even have been exposed to any of this information. where would you get your fix of self loathing? One comment here is “When a shaman dies he/she carries to the grave a body of knowledge that could be transmitted to our modern world”. So i guess it’s ok to strip them of intellectual property, but not logs and oil. You’re all a bunch of f&*king clowns.

  22. Maria
    San Diego
    June 30, 2011, 10:18 am

    I find it hard to believe these aboriginal people are completely untouched by our society. It is more likely they have seen and studied us long before we “discovered” them. While I would love to see them left alone, it in inevitable that one or more missionaries or ‘explorers’ will eventually find a way to muck it up.

  23. Walter Killian
    Mobile Alabama
    June 30, 2011, 9:51 am

    These people seem to be surviving just fine. Why teach them poverty and greed. These words can not be translated into their launguage because they have no meaning. Was not that the devils first trick

  24. Priests and Pastors
    churches
    June 30, 2011, 9:30 am

    Now U have to send missionaries in their to save there soles and convert them 2 UR churches and teech them proper English.

  25. Janny
    Brasil
    June 30, 2011, 9:26 am

    GET OUT FROM OUR AMAZON!!!

  26. Gil V.
    New York City
    June 30, 2011, 8:47 am

    I am jealous and glad they don’t live as corporate slaves the way we do in our modern society. Hope their lives don’t get ruined and exploited by being introduced to the media, but actually protected and glorified.

  27. Anonymous
    June 30, 2011, 8:34 am

    [...] rain forest clearings and confirmed by aerial reconnaissance flights earlier this year. (…) Uncontacted Tribe Discovered in Brazilian Amazon – National Geographic News Watch Responder com [...]

  28. Luiz
    Nova Friburgo, Brasil
    June 30, 2011, 8:33 am

    That`s the end of a large period of peace for them.

  29. Shawn Paunchai-Green
    Massachusetts
    June 30, 2011, 8:25 am

    To M.-
    Who said anything about them killing each other off???

  30. Cv.Unnikrishnan
    India
    June 30, 2011, 8:06 am

    There is this tribe named Jerubas in the Andaman Islands .The government of India built a road in the Island which inadvertently caused slaughter cutting of trees and a flood of tourists from the mainland.
    The tribe there became sensitive to many diseases unknown to them ever for generations.
    Today whenever a car rushes past their village,in clothes discarded by the tourists, they beg for ‘roti'(Indian bread) with outstretched hands!
    Let us all hope and pray for wisdom to let the newly discovered tribe be.

  31. Lori
    SC
    June 30, 2011, 6:19 am

    Untouched by greedy fingers. It looks as if someone used a helicopter to take this photo. I’m jealous that someone on this planet is actually free. They don’t wake up every morning knowing they are nothing more than methane producing, domesticated, consumption livestock.

  32. Robert Valčić
    Slovenia
    June 30, 2011, 5:25 am

    It’s better that they don’t discover our “civilisation” or they will be ashamed of us.

  33. Hamid
    Abbottabad, Pakistan
    June 24, 2011, 2:45 pm

    Amazon seem to be the last place on earth producing oxygen and conserving wild life. The habitat is badly shaken by the loggers and gold seekers and its time for western world to compensate what they did to ruin the world eco system by industrilization and through policies which (indirectly) resulted in civil wars in countries like Congo and other African nations. Please don’t let the governments suffocate the world. Don’t shock the undiscovered by letting them into our almost ruined world.

  34. M
    June 24, 2011, 2:37 pm

    Well… if there are 8-14 tribes in a forest as small as half the size as Florida… are we just going to sit around and watch as they kill each other off?

    Also…I think it’s kind of unfair that with societies such as these, scientists “don’t want” to disturb them but find no qualms about studying them like lab rats. If you’re going to let them be, then ACTUALLY let them be!

  35. Henrique Gobbi
    June 24, 2011, 4:01 am

    Great article! Brazilian anthropologist believe that there are about 70 different isolated groups living in the Brazilian Amazon.

    We have a lot to learn from this people. Indeed, our future depends on the indigenous groups that live in the rainforest. The Amazon has the largest diversity of plants in the planet. More than 50% of prescription drugs are derived from chemicals identified in plants and shamans in that region know a wide variety of herbs that can be used to cure diseases such as cancer. When a shaman dies he/she carries to the grave a body of knowledge that could be transmitted to our modern world. The Brazilian government needs to protect indigenous groups so future generations will be able to live in a safer world. Check out my blog if you are interested in this topic: ethnonomad.blogspot.com

    Ethnonomad

  36. J.R
    Australia
    June 23, 2011, 4:35 am

    This report emphasizes why it should be the responsibility of EVERYONE on earth to ensure that the Amazon remain untouched and instead being used for logging and other harmful activities to acknowledge this most wonderful marvel of nature as our prime concern and nurture not destroy it. Once it has gone it can never be replaced and the loss will impact on everyone and every part of our eco-system. It is everyone’s responsibility and on this issue we must stand unitedly and make governments listen to our voice. Nature must always be placed first before the lining the pockets of government and private sector pockets.

  37. [...] posted on NationalGeographic.com [...]