Uncontacted tribes

Genocide

Whole populations of uncontacted tribes are being wiped out by genocidal violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.

These uncontacted Sapanawa Indians came out of the forest in 2014 after outsiders massacred the majority of their elderly. So many people were killed that they couldn’t bury them all and their corpses were eaten by vultures. © FUNAI/Survival

Outsiders have repeatedly tried to wipe out the Akuntsu tribe since they were forcibly contacted in the 1970s. Since Konibu (far right) and Ururú (hidden, far left) died, there are now just four remaining Akuntsu. With their death, the tribe will become extinct. © Survival

Boa Senior was the last member of the Great Andamanese Bo tribe. With her death in 2010, the extermination of her entire people and the extinction of their language was complete. The Bo and neighbouring tribes were 5,000 strong when the when the British colonized the Andaman Islands in the 1850s. Most were killed or died of diseases brought by the colonizers – less than 60 survive today. © Alok Das

The house and garden of an uncontacted Indian in Brazil. He is believed to be the only survivor of a tribe massacred by ranchers decades ago. He lives on his own in a patch of forest, where he digs deep holes in which to trap animals or to hide from outsiders known as the Man of the Hole.© J. Pessoa

Tucan, a Piripkura man, sleeping in the forest. The Piripkura numbered around 20 people when FUNAI first contacted them in the late 1980s. After contact they returned to the forest. Since then contact was re-established with three members of the tribe but later two returned to the forest and have not been sighted since. No one knows if there are other survivors. © Jair Candor/FUNAI

Jorge Murunahua speaks out soon after contact
They killed my mother, my brothers and sisters, and my wife.
Awá Brazil
We didn't know what a cold was. Half of us died. Half of my people died.
Murunahua Peru

Cases

Kawahiva
© FUNAI

In the Amazon, a tiny group of uncontacted Indians teeters on the brink of extinction. The tribe is forced to live on the run, fleeing violence from outsiders. Attacks and disease have killed their relatives. The loggers are getting closer. These are the Last of the Kawahiva. And their genocide will be complete unless their land is protected.

© Peetsa/FUNAI/CGIIRC Archive

Straddling the borders of Peru and Brazil is the Amazon's Uncontacted Frontier – home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else on the planet. Where their land is intact, they are thriving. But elsewhere, oil exploration, loggers, drug-traffickers and roads are putting their lives on the line. Survival is calling on the two governments to uphold the law and prevent their destruction.

© FUNAI

In the Amazon, a tiny group of uncontacted Indians teeters on the brink of extinction. The tribe is forced to live on the run, fleeing violence from outsiders. Attacks and disease have killed their relatives. The loggers are getting closer. These are the Last of the Kawahiva. And their genocide will be complete unless their land is protected.

© Peetsa/FUNAI/CGIIRC Archive

Straddling the borders of Peru and Brazil is the Amazon's Uncontacted Frontier – home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else on the planet. Where their land is intact, they are thriving. But elsewhere, oil exploration, loggers, drug-traffickers and roads are putting their lives on the line. Survival is calling on the two governments to uphold the law and prevent their destruction.

Land theft and forced contact

We oppose attempts by outsiders to contact uncontacted tribes. It’s always fatal and initiating contact must be their choice alone. Those who enter uncontacted tribes’ territories deny them that choice.

Mining – from multi-million dollar projects to smaller scale illegal operations – pollutes and opens up indigenous territories. The Greater Carajás project including a mine (pictured), a railway and a dam, exposed the north-eastern Amazon to unprecedented invasions and violence, and killed many uncontacted Awá. © Peter Frey/Survival

Hydroelectric dams, often presented as “green energy” alternatives, are destroying vast swathes of indigenous land. A series of internationally-funded mega-dams in the Brazilian Amazon – such as Belo Monte, pictured – threatens the existence of several groups of uncontacted Indians. © Ministry of Mines and Energy, Brazil

Missionaries attempting to force contact on uncontacted tribes could end up wiping them out. Here, a missionary smiles as he takes a selfie with an uncontacted Indian child who has just emerged from the forest. This simple act could kill, as he is likely to be carrying germs of diseases like flu and measles to which the tribespeople have no resistance. © FENAMAD

Deforestation kills uncontacted Indians by destroying their land on which they depend for their survival. Paraguay’s Chaco forest – the last refuge of the uncontacted Ayoreo tribe – is being devastated by one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. © Rodrigo Baleia

Uncontacted tribes’ land is being stolen and used for cattle ranching. Cattle are grazing on the land of the uncontacted Kawahiva tribe while the Indians face extinction and are living on the run, struggling to survive. © Survival

Huge tracts of land in Amazonia – once home to hundreds of uncontacted tribes – have been opened up for large-scale plantations. In Brazil, this is encouraged by Congress’s anti-indigenous rural lobby group, which is pushing to drastically weaken indigenous people’s hard-won land rights. © Rodrigo Baleia

This region is home to the uncontacted Nahua, Nanti, Matsigenka and Mashco-Piro Indians. The Camisea gas pipeline construction slashes its way through the heart of uncontacted Indians’ forest in Peru. Oil and gas projects like this have killed countless uncontacted Indians in recent history and are a clear violation of national and international law. © A. Goldstein/Survival

Poaching threatens the survival of India’s Sentinelese tribe. If their resources are depleted, they will die. © A. Justin

© G. Miranda/FUNAI/Survivalß

A Dangerous Controversy

Ignoring centuries of experience of the devastation forced contact inflicts, some academics are calling for uncontacted tribes, whose existence they deem ”not viable in the long term,” to be forcibly contacted. Indigenous peoples and experts around the world have attacked their ideas as being “dangerous” and “arrogant”, and playing into the hands of those who want to open up tribal territories and plunder their resources.

Uncontacted tribes are pristine societies.

Myth

REALITY: All peoples are changing all the time and always have done, including uncontacted tribes. Survival doesn’t talk about “pristine” tribes. They are not backward or “Stone Age.“ They just live differently.

We are denying them the benefits of western medicine.

Myth

REALITY: We know from recently contacted groups that uncontacted tribes have unrivalled knowledge of their environment and medicinal plants which they use to treat diseases known to them.

Populations increase after contact with the benefit of western medicine.

Myth

REALITY: Contact is dangerous and devastating. Some tribes have lost 90% of their population within a year or two of first contact and never recovered, and others have been wiped out altogether. If some do survive and eventually recover, it's at a very high and unacceptable price, often with the loss of most of their population. Even with medical teams on hand at first contact there is no guarantee that indigenous people will respond to treatment or even that they will accept it.

If they knew about “our” way of life, they would want to join us.

Myth

REALITY: They won’t get the chance. In reality, the future offered by the settler society is to “join“ at the lowest possible level – often as beggars and prostitutes. History proves that tribal peoples end up in a far worse state after contact, often dead.

They can't be left alone forever.

Myth

Reality: If the alternative is their destruction, why not? We oppose attempts by outsiders to contact them. It’s always fatal and initiating contact must be their choice alone. The solution is clear: Protect their land to allow them to live as they choose.

What's next?  →
 

Give

We refuse government money: We depend on you

Donate
 

Act

Raise money, campaign and spread the word

Act