Non-contact tribes that live in isolation from civilization

Who on the planet does not make contact and why

There is something paradoxical in this: humanity has long learned to move at the speed of sound, resist the elements, even read human thoughts. And deciding what to do with respect to the "savages" remaining on the planet is not entirely possible. There are such tribes, and these are rather exceptions to the general rule - after all, throughout the history of the development of civilizations, human communities in one way or another contacted each other, and therefore influenced each other.

Non-contact peoples, for some reason, found themselves in isolation, and not for a decade or two, but for hundreds or thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands of years. How many such communities on Earth are not known exactly, but scientists say there are at least a hundred. Most of them are located in South America, in the forests of the Amazon River, and also in Papua New Guinea and the islands of the Indian Ocean.

These tribes live in a Stone Age setting, do not seek contact with the outside world, even avoid it. There is very little information about such people - often neither the exact number of the group, nor the peculiarities of its language are known, and information is obtained from neighboring tribes and from aerial photographs, however, in the conditions of equatorial and tropical forests, the latter is not particularly informative. The Sentinelese are unconditionally recognized as the most mysterious and "unsociable" tribe.


North Sentinel Island, which belongs to the Andaman Islands, covers an area of ​​about sixty square kilometers, most of the surface (except for the coast) is occupied by forests. There, in the thickets, amazing people build their homes for themselves, who for thirty thousand years lived in isolation from the rest of the world. The number of Sentinelians is calculated according to the resources that the island can contain, and is, according to rough estimates, about a hundred people, although other numbers are called - from 15 to 500 inhabitants.

They do not know agriculture, live by hunting and gathering, perhaps they do not know how to make fire, although they keep it in the form of smoldering embers. The Sentinelians use spears and a bow and arrow (which in the past cost their lives to those who tried to establish contact with the tribe), and improve their weapons with the help of metal objects found on two ships sunk nearby. The first attempts to "tame" local savages were carried out at the end of the 19th century, when the English missionaries even managed to kidnap six islanders.





A few days later, the Sentinelese who were removed from the island fell ill. Two adults - a man and a woman - died, and four children, in some panic, were returned to the coast of the island. There is a version that it was this incident that became the reason for the special hostility that the Sentinelese have towards strangers. Their last victim was missionary John Chau, who arrived on the island in 2018.

Who are the savages here after all?

Non-contact tribes are important to the world community for various reasons. Sometimes this is a purely scientific interest - the study of the phenomenon of the Stone Age in almost natural form, or, as in the case of the Pirahan tribe, the study of the evolution of language. The Pirahans living in the Amazon, who until recently did not interact with the world, but have now entered into a dialogue, are distinguished by an interesting feature - their language describes only what the speaker is directly dealing with.


No assumptions, stories about the past, fantasies, drawings, even numbers - this is the language of the Pirahan. Their self-name is translated as "straight", in contrast to all the others, "crooked-headed". These people, preserving the customs of primitive life - huts without walls and floors, covered with palm leaves - use gifts from people from the big world: utensils, clothes.

The Amazon forests hide many mysterious peoples, some of them are known only from the traces they leave as they roam: wicker baskets, arrows, huts. Such are the Kawahiva people, several of whom managed, however, to be filmed on video in 2011. And in the north-west of Bolivia there is the Toromon tribe, which has been hiding in hard-to-reach places since the time of the Spanish colonization - in those parts, the mythical city of Paititi with the treasures of the Incas was once searched for.

The Ava tribe was once sedentary, but has been wandering since the beginning of the 19th century. This nation is under threat of extinction, its number does not exceed a hundred people. When the missionary movement began in South America in the sixties of the last century, two clans of the Waorani Indians in Ecuador - the Tagayeri and the Taromenane - went into the forests. Attempts to establish contact with them led to attacks on missionaries and settlements.


The colonization of both Americas led to the destruction of a significant part of the indigenous population, but now in South America, isolated tribes are constantly exposed to threats from drug traffickers and illegal loggers. And even a few decades ago, the official authorities were clearing out the territories inhabited by non-contact peoples when deforestation, especially in Brazil. And civilized attempts to establish contact with those who were in isolation for a long time led primarily to high mortality from infections.

The aborigines do not even have immunity to viruses common to other people, therefore the tribes "from the forest" are very vulnerable: up to half of the inhabitants of the settlement die in a few weeks. And for the provision of modern medical care to the sick, there is not a sufficient level of trust: “non-contact” do not come for treatment to those who brought misfortune to their small world. There are other dangers - having become acquainted with alcohol, drugs, Indians and islanders easily become victims of addiction.


Even a change in the usual diet can lead to fatal consequences. It is believed that because of this, the Onge people living in the Andaman Islands are now on the verge of extinction. Changes in nutrition were one of the reasons for the decline in fertility, which was already not the best - endogamous alliances led to this.

Do I need to contact non-contact peoples?

Since the beginning of colonization, the well-being of the indigenous peoples was not particularly worried, focusing on resources and land and getting rid of the burdens in the image of local residents, especially deprived of European weapons and advantages in numbers. In the century before last, tribes living apart began to attract the attention of those who saw their vocation in the enlightenment of "savages", converting them to their faith. Imposing their way of life, the missionaries, in turn, cut a lot of wood, however, at the same time, they collected a large amount of information about such peoples.


It cannot be said that the new millennium has radically changed the attitude of the world towards the tribes living in the conditions of the Stone Age. But still, recently, the best solution has been recognized to leave non-contact peoples alone, to give them the opportunity to live their own lives, since they do not need anything from civilization - they are perfectly able to survive without the help of the world community. The Islanders of the Andaman Islands managed to survive the 2004 tsunami, despite the fact that the epicenter was very close to them.


In areas where nomadic tribes live or roam, closed territories are created, where access from outside is limited or completely prohibited. Such a regime applies to the Jarawa tribe from one of the Andaman Islands, only once a month a sack of food from the "mainland" is delivered to these people. A particularly strict ban applies to the North Sentinel. Residents behave extremely unfriendly, firing from a bow not only the approaching boats, but also the helicopter.


In November 2018, another attempt to establish contact with the Sentinelese turned into a tragedy: an American youth missionary John Chau, who violated official prohibitions and nevertheless landed on the island, was killed by the aborigines. This incident gave rise to once again raising the question of the fate of non-contact peoples and the need for their integration into the life of the civilized world. Now, during a pandemic, any action in this direction is unlikely to be taken.

In July 2021, the death of a member of the Awa tribe was confirmed by a covid. An elderly aborigine was in contact with lumberjacks, and from them caught the infection. Already small in number, the Ava tribe is in danger of disappearing completely.


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