Are there undiscovered people?


Should We Play Hide-and-Seek with Undiscovered People?

As recently as the late 19th century, when one geographer estimated that one-eighth of the planet's land surface was still unmapped, a nature-savvy, self-sufficient band of "primitives" probably could have evaded civilized stalkers without too much difficulty, simply by fleeing deeper into the vastness of the wild. Today, though, there aren't that many unexplored stretches of wilderness left, and what remains is rapidly shrinking, thanks to logging, farming and oil companies. Beyond that, new technological tools available to outsiders, such as satellite photography and GPS tracking devices, make it increasingly difficult for groups to hide. When the supposedly lost Brazilian tribe was spotted and photographed from the air in 2008, they were in a clearing that someone had first noticed on Google Maps [source: Downey]. Since then, the Brazilian government has equipped aircraft with heat sensors that can track isolated tribes from above, even if they can't be seen [source: Associated Press].

Even if we're not quite there yet, the day will eventually come when it's no longer possible to hide. That's potentially both good and bad news for the isolated tribes. If government agencies in Brazil and elsewhere can locate the reclusive aboriginal peoples, it may enable officials to protect them and their home areas from encroachment, before they're discovered and wiped out by those who covet their lands. On the downside, as it gets easier to find isolated tribes, it's going to be tougher and tougher for them to avoid contact with a civilized world that is both repulsed and fascinated by them. Seed Magazine reports, for example, that four isolated Peruvian Indians died from respiratory infections in 2008, after a reality TV show crew illegally slipped into their government reservation. And after the media went gaga over the not-lost Brazilian tribe in 2008, the Indian expert who helped the government locate them was approached by travel agents, who proposed setting up "Savage Tourism" trips.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links

Sources

  • Adams, Guy. "Decline of a Tribe: And Then There Were Five." The Independent (UK). Oct. 13, 2009. (Nov. 25, 2009)http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/decline-of-a-tribe-and-then-there-were-five-1801795.html
  • Associated Press. "Heat Sensors to Locate Lost Tribes in Amazon." Foxnews.com. Nov. 19, 2008. (Oct. 25, 2009)http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,454188,00.html
  • Columbus, Christopher and de las Casas, Bartolome. "Personal Narrative of the First Voyage of Columbus to America." T.B.Wait and Son. 1827 (Nov. 25, 2009)http://books.google.com/books?id=iaDtUahGNf4C&dq=%22I+could+conquer+the+whole+of+them+with+50+men,+and+govern+them+as+I+pleased.%22&source=gbs_navlinks_s
  • Downey, Greg. "Turning a Blind Eye." Seed Magazine. Sept. 25, 2008. (Oct. 25, 2009)http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/turning_a_blind_eye/
  • "Governors' Global Climate Summit." Green Street Scene. Undated. (Nov. 25, 2009)http://climatesummit.greenstreetscene.com/channel/conferences/globalclimatesummit2/global-climate-leaders/idx6/international-governors?event_id=65
  • Grudgings, Stuart. "Group denies misleading media over Amazon tribe." Reuters. June 24, 2008. (Nov. 25, 2009)http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSN24332207
  • Harvey, Miles. "The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime." Random House. 2001. (Nov. 25, 2009)http://books.google.com/books?id=GnGO6A2CN6YC&printsec=frontcover&dq=island+of+lost+maps#v=onepage&q=&f=false
  • Howden, Daniel. "The Amazonian tribe that hid from the rest of the world-until now." The Independent. May 30, 2008. (Nov. 25, 2009)http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/the-amazonian-tribe-that-hid-from-the-rest-of-the-world-ndash-until-now-836774.html
  • Lloyd, Robin. "Photo of Amazon Tribe Not a Hoax." LiveScience. June 24, 2008. (Nov. 25, 2009)http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/080624-amazon-tribe.html
  • "One Year On: Uncontacted Tribes Face Extinction." Survival International. May 29, 2009. (Nov. 25, 2009)http://assets.survival-international.org/documents/14/One_Year_On_Survival_Report.pdf
  • "The Most Isolated Tribe in the World?" Survival International. Undated. (Nov. 25, 2009) http://www.survivalinternational.org/uncontactedtribes/mostisolated
  • "Uncontacted Tribes."Survival International. Undated. (Nov. 25, 2009)http://www.survivalinternational.org/uncontactedtribes
  • UPI. "Human sacrifice practiced by newly-discovered tribe." Ellensburg, WA Daily Record. Aug. 11, 1977. (Nov. 25, 2009)http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=860&dat=19770811&id=ejsQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=f48DAAAAIBAJ&pg=6752,2217994
  • Vidal, John. "We said to them, 'Come closer,' but they said to us, 'Go further back.'" Guardian. Oct. 6, 2007. (Nov. 25, 2009)http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/oct/06/brazil.conservation
  • Wilson, Dr. Edward O. "The Future of Life: Lecture." Encyclopedia of Earth. Dec. 6, 2001. (Nov. 25, 2009)

More to Explore