The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

    The human extinction of the uncontacted

    Just a year ago, the Peruvian government claimed there were no uncontacted tribes left in the Amazon jungle. Today, this logic is no longer valid. On Jan. 31, photos of one of the last uncontacted tribes made headlines around the world. On Jan. 4, aerial footagenarrated by movie star Gillian Anderson received over a million hits just hours after being published online.

    Tess Thackara, U.S. Coordinator at Survival International, the NGO responsible for publicizing the photographs and the footage, spoke with The DePaulia about the story behind obtaining the images, about the importance of widespread awareness of the tribe’s existence, and about ways students in the U.S. can get involved in ensuring the survival of this unique group of people.

    Q: Can you tell us how you obtained the images and who exactly are the people seen in the footage?

    A: This particular tribe has been monitored for almost twenty years by FUNAI, the National Indian Foundation. Recently, the group invited BBC to use their high quality equipment and BBC in turn passed the footage on to Survival in an effort to spread awareness and for people to realize the importance of protecting these people.

    These people are members of one of the last remaining uncontacted tribes in the world. They are located near the headwaters of the Envira River, near the Brazil/ Peru border. They have had no peaceful contact with other tribes and the mainstream society. That is not to say they have had absolutely no contact with the outside world. But so far, it’s only been devastating for them.

    Q: What are some of the problems they’re faced with? Do you think publicizing the photographs and the footage will have any positive impact on their situation?

    A: Uncontacted tribes around the world face a constant slew of threats including encroaching illegal loggers, oil mining and dam-building amongst others.

    If people don’t know they’re there, they won’t survive. It’s as simple as that. In the responses we have seen to these images being released, it is very clear that people around the world care about the survival of vulnerable tribal peoples, and we have seen time and time again that public opinion is the greatest force for change.

    Q: But isn’t there a risk involved with revealing the existence of these people to the general public?

    A: We have to tread a fine line between publicizing their existence in order to help them survive, and conveying the importance of letting uncontacted tribes themselves make the decision to contact the outside world at their own pace.

    And we do not publicize their exact location. Besides, when you think about it, the danger of the tribe not surviving far outweighs the risks involved with revealing its existence.

    Q: Can you tell us what students in the U.S. can do to help out?

    A: I would encourage students to be aware of what is going on in the world. Post on Facebook, tweet it, showcase movies, and simply talk about it.

    You can also sign up to our e-news on the homepage of our website. We send out appeals via our e-news asking people to sign petitions and write to governments.

    But the main thing is for students to spread the word about these issues and generate as much awareness as possible. It is not inevitable that all tribal peoples will eventually be wiped out. If we rally together a real difference can be made.

    About Survival International

    Survival International was founded in 1969 in London to protect the rights of indigenous tribal people. According to its website, the organization has over 250,000 supporters from nearly 100 countries. It is the only group of its kind in the world.

    The February footage of the Amazonian tribe received over one and a half million views online in just three days, compared to an average of about 15,000 hits a day. As a result of this widespread attention, the Peruvian government promised to take greater steps in ensuring the tribe’s survival.