Uncontacted tribe photos no hoax

June 23, 2008

One of the photos at the centre of the controversy. © G. Miranda/FUNAI/Survival, 2008

This page was created in 2008 and may contain language which is now outdated.

The British newspaper The Observer claimed on 22 June that it has now ‘emerged’ that the uncontacted tribe whose photos received worldwide publicity were neither ‘lost’, nor 'undiscovered' nor ‘unknown’.

Other newspapers that have picked up the article have gone further and said that the story was a ‘hoax’.

The story is not a hoax, and none of those involved in working to protect these Indians’ rights have ever claimed they were ‘undiscovered’.

In response to the allegations, Survival International’s director Stephen Corry today issued the following statement:

‘The Observer article claims to ‘reveal’ that the tribe photographed was neither ‘lost’ nor ‘unknown’. The reality is that neither Survival nor the Brazilian government claimed they were:

• When Survival published the photos, we quoted José Carlos dos Reis Meirelles, the Brazilian official who released them, saying, ‘We did the overflight to show their houses, to show they are there…’ As Mr Meirelles said when the Brazilian government released the photos, the Indians’ territory has been monitored for twenty years.

• These Indians are in a reserve expressly set aside for the protection of uncontacted tribes: they were hardly ‘unknown’!

• A glance at Survival’s publications would also ‘reveal’ that we have been campaigning for the protection of the uncontacted Indians of this region for more than twenty years.

‘What is, and remains, true, is that so far as is known these Indians have no peaceful contact with outsiders. The publication of the pictures has pushed the Peruvian government into investigating their plight, a huge step forward given that just a few months ago Peru’s President publicly questioned whether uncontacted Indians exist at all.

‘This latest controversy reveals more about media attitudes than it does about isolated tribal peoples. Some journalists apparently don’t want to recognise that there are in fact many uncontacted tribes around the world – we estimate about 100 – which, whilst not ‘lost’, simply reject contact with the outside world. Given the massacres and atrocities so many of them have experienced, it’s a perfectly sensible attitude.’

For further information please contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]

Read Survival's press release of 29 May about the photographs

Read the statement from FUNAI (the Brazilian government's Indian Affairs department) of 29 May

Watch Survival's short film ‘Uncontacted Tribes’

Uncontacted Tribes of Peru