Amazon Indians demand: 'Respect our right to remain uncontacted'

Crossed spears found on a path in northern Peru. Crossed spears are a common sign used by uncontacted Indians to warn outsiders to stay away.
Crossed spears found on a path in northern Peru. Crossed spears are a common sign used by uncontacted Indians to warn outsiders to stay away.
© Marek Wolodzko/AIDESEP

Amazon Indian organizations have labeled calls by two US anthropologists to forcibly contact uncontacted tribes as “arrogant” and “irresponsible.”

Peru’s main Amazon Indian organization AIDESEP, as well several smaller Amazonian indigenous groups, released a statement in response to a recent editorial in Science magazine by US anthropologists Robert Walker and Kim Hill.

The anthropologists claim that uncontacted tribes are “unviable” and that governments are violating their responsibility to protect isolated tribes if they “refuse authorized, well-planned contacts.” Currently, international and Peruvian laws guarantee uncontacted tribes the right to reject contact with mainstream society.

In an open letter, the organizations wrote, “The way of life that we as indigenous peoples choose to live is a decision that we ourselves make, and one which the State and society has to respect. National and international laws grant us the right to maintain our cultures and make decisions over our present and future lives.

“We reject any call or act that seeks to impose a way of life that is rejected by our brothers in isolation and initial contact.”

There are more than a hundred uncontacted tribes around the world, all face catastrophe unless their land is protected.

In Peru, five reserves have been created to protect the lands and lives of uncontacted tribes. A further five areas are known to be inhabited by uncontacted tribes, but the government has been slow to protect them.

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, recently wrote in US journal Truth Out, “It’s time to stand in resistance against those who just can’t abide that there are some who choose a different path to ours, who don’t subscribe to our values, and who don’t make us richer unless we steal their land.”