Over the years I’ve covered a few stories about uncontacted tribes still living in the Amazon Rainforest. These small groups of indigenous people have been living in the jungle, isolated from the modern world and often going to great lengths to avoid interacting with outsiders. But now, National Geographic has the fascinating story of one such tribe that has begun initiating contact, sometimes with violent results.
The Mashco people live in Peru’s Amazon region along the Alto Madre de Dios River. Their presence has been known in that area for decades, but the estimated 600-800 members of the tribe have mainly shied away from any contact with the modern settlements there. But over the past few years, the Mashco have appeared more frequently, sometimes wandering into the village of Shipetiari asking for food, tools, or other items.
This in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, although the Peruvian government has a strict policy governing how to interact with uncontacted tribes. Living in the jungle, these people have had limited exposure to the viruses and disease that are common in the modern world. Catching the flu for example could have dire consequences for their population.
Unfortunately, the Mashco don’t have the same rules of engagement when interacting with locals. They come armed with seven-foot long arrows with points that have been sharpened to a razor’s edge, and they have used them on more than one occasion. Villagers living in Shipetiari have been shot at frequently, and some have even been wounded or killed. It has gotten to the point where those villagers will seek shelter when they know the tribesmen are close by, seeing to avoid conflict with them altogether.
The frequent sightings and interaction with the Mashco have forced the Peruvian government to station a security team in an outpost that had gone unmanned for more than two years. That team has been slowly getting to know some of the tribe, although they still haven’t discovered why the Mashco have decided to emerge from the jungle at this time, and start initiating contact.
The entire Nat Geo article is a fascinating read, especially if you are as intrigued by these uncontacted tribes as I am. As time passes by, and we encroach on their territory more frequently, there are fewer and fewer of these tribes left. It is amazing to me that there are still places on the Earth where people live their lives so isolated from the modern world, but I am also glad that these people are out there, still pursuing a way of life that has been ongoing for centuries. I know at some point there will be no more uncontacted tribes left, and that will be a sad day indeed.
Read the entire article by clicking here.
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