Science

Aerial photography confirms existence of unknown tribe deep in Brazilian Amazon

Uncontacted Indians' houses, Javari Valley, Brazil
Uncontacted Indians' houses, Javari Valley, Brazil. © Peetsa/Arquivo CGIIRC-Funai
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The Brazilian government has announced the discovery of a previously unknown tribe of people living deep in the Amazon rainforest.

The tribe was first discovered when satellite imagery showed clearings which were likely caused by human activity.  Funai, the Brazilian Government agency responsible for the protection of indigenous tribes later confirmed their existence during a fly-past in April.

Uncontacted Indians' houses, Javari Valley, Brazil
Uncontacted Indians' houses, Javari Valley, Brazil. © Peetsa/Arquivo CGIIRC-Funai

Images from the fly-past were only released this week to the public by Survival International, (@survival | Facebook | YouTube) an organisation which works for ingenious peoples’ rights.

This new tribe was discovered in the Vale do Javari (Javari Valley) region of Brazil which the government has been designated as reserved lands for indigenous peoples.  According to Uncontacted Tribes, a subsidiary of Survival International, this is one of the densest areas for uncontacted peoples and may be home to over 2,000 native people.

Survival International describes the area as, “Home to possibly the largest concentration of uncontacted tribes in the world. There are at least seven uncontacted peoples: Korubo, Tsohom Djapá, Flecheiros, and four others whose names are unknown. Illegal fishers, hunters and loggers are penetrating the area, which could endanger them if casual contact is made.”


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The Brazilian government has not made direct contact with the people, partially to protect their culture but also to prevent passing diseases such as the common cold which could be lethal to the tribe.

Even so, when announcing the discovery Funai warned that indigenous people, even in protected areas, are coming under threat in a number of ways.

“The main threats to the integrity of these groups are illegal fishing, hunting, logging, mining, agro-pastoralists with large clearings, missionary activities and frontier situations, such as drug trafficking. Another situation that requires care is the oil exploration in Peru, which may reflect on Indigenous Javari Valley.” via Google Translate

This video from another discovery in February 2011 describes the methods used to discover and document such tribes,

The images show uncovered huts, which are likely to house 20 to 30 people and also found areas for cooking, storage, as well as an aviary.  Analysis of the images shows that the tribe is healthy, having only constructed new dwellings in the past year.

Vegetation surrounding the tribe’s lands suggests that they live on corn, peanuts, and bananas.

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Piers Dillon Scott
Piers Dillon-Scott is co-editor of The Sociable and writes about stuff he finds. He likes technology, media, and using the Oxford comma (because it just makes sense).