First Contact
February 6, 2005 5:56 PM   Subscribe

First Contact: Is it ethical to charge people for the privilege of making "first contact" with nomadic hunter-gatherer groups when the situation of indigenous peoples is so dire? Are we still entranced by the idea of the "noble savage"?
posted by ITheCosmos (18 comments total)
second link via kottke.
posted by ITheCosmos at 5:57 PM on February 6, 2005

Is it ethical to con tourists into paying for what they think is the privilege of making "first contact" with nomadic hunter gatherers?

Why yes, it is. The tourists get their show, the savages get their cut of the tourism spoils -- everybody wins.
posted by sour cream at 6:09 PM on February 6, 2005

absolutely, and if a person is willing to die an ignoble death in the process, that's all the better.
a member of an anthro camera crew was killed in s amer not too long ago under similar 'first contact' conditions.

after all, it's minimal interest for all the previous atrocities that have been heaped upon those 'dirty savages'
posted by emdog at 6:11 PM on February 6, 2005

Used to get my kicks by stepping/climbing/traversing that which wasn't touched before. It becomes overwhelming and you waste a lot of firsts before you realize what you're doing. I'm awfully sure that is what would happen here. At the end of that day you realize you don't need it, but don't tell anyone who feels they should do this that. Regardless, it's rough and is a battle for all involved. The indigenous here don't realize the flame they are playing with and those that venture may or may not realize the long term questions..
posted by sled at 6:14 PM on February 6, 2005

ummm.. NO.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:48 PM on February 6, 2005

Wasn't there something from Star Trek like a Prime Objective or something? Trekkies help me out with this. I think it might apply here.
posted by snsranch at 7:04 PM on February 6, 2005

Yup, snsranch, it's the Prime Directive.
posted by jesourie at 7:27 PM on February 6, 2005

Time they arrived into the 21st century anyway. ;-P
posted by mischief at 7:33 PM on February 6, 2005

This is absolutely the worst possible thing.
posted by jimfl at 7:37 PM on February 6, 2005

Interesting post. I think this leaves a bad taste in the mouth for multiple reasons:
a) treating another culture like some zoo exhibit is distasteful to me
b) i'm reminded of how outsiders brought decimating disease to a previously closed culture in past history
c) it sounds like it has the potential to become some Buffalo Bill show where the natives will one day be paid to act like the savages who have never before seen an outside human.
posted by spock at 7:54 PM on February 6, 2005

(Off the top of my head, I'd be willing to guess that c has already occurred here.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:04 PM on February 6, 2005

Thank you jesourie! I knew there was something to that. Oddly enough, Spock has spoken and his comments are brilliant and sum things up perfectly.
posted by snsranch at 8:40 PM on February 6, 2005

y'all should just leave them peeps alone!
posted by cusack at 11:02 PM on February 6, 2005

If this is legit, it is outrageously wrong. The arrogance of thinking that your culture gives you a "right" to intrude on somebody else's is as culturally-defined and narrow as one that says it is good to cut your head off and place it above my doorpost.

First of all, disease. Although Papuans have had trade contact with each other and with the outside world for centuries, a new flu strain could wipe out a population quite easy, and yes, you can transmit it within five miunutes. Which is why the Indian goivernement does not let this type of tourism go on with the Andaman Island natives. Simple diseases wiped out Native American cultures well before most of them had actually met Europeans face to face.

And I agree with the anthros that most traditional cultues don't go traipsing through the jungles in elaborate headresses.
posted by zaelic at 2:25 AM on February 7, 2005

For those worried about the morality of first contact, I'm pretty sure this is bogus, based on this:
"I'm 95 percent sure it is a hoax," the University of Sydney's William Foley declares after watching it. He's struck by the fact that the natives didn't appear to have any skin diseases, which are endemic among bushmen. "This is unheard of for people living in the forest," he says. "The guys are too clean. Secondly, their dress is far too elaborate. That's the kind of dress they wear when doing a ceremony. That's not what they wear when they go out hunting and collecting food. All those headdresses—no way."
So I have to agree with sour cream.

Great post!
posted by languagehat at 6:25 AM on February 7, 2005

For info about a similar situation in Africa, see A Kalahari Family. This is a long documentary that deals, in part, with the same type of "eco-tourism." The San's land has been taken away to the point that hunting and gathering is not a viable option. Now they live on government reserves surviving on tiny rations. They're attempts to farm were undermined by WWF (they were restricted from protecting themselves from elephants who invaded their water sources). Now they participate in tours where tourists can come and see their so-called way of life. The tourists are not told that it is an act, and no, the San do not get a share of the profits. They are also restricted from pursuing farming or other forms of sustainable livelihood within the area of the tours, so they are totally reliant on the meager pay from tourist activities.

I don't know about the Papuan case, but I do know that there is a general consensus in hunter gatherer studies that there are no groups left in the world relying on hunting and gathering anymore.
posted by carmen at 7:31 AM on February 7, 2005

> Why yes, it is. The tourists get their show, the savages
>get their cut of the tourism spoils -- everybody wins.

Hmm, you gave me a grand idea.

Step right up folks, make first contact with this tiny tribe of "suburban savages"...

Individually they are quite endearing, reminiscent of days gone by, but when gathered together, fed copious amounts of sugar - they can turn into deadly hunters. In constant search of amusement and entertainment these dwarfed humanoids will stop at nothing to satisfy their insatiable lust for parental attention.
posted by jkaczor at 8:43 AM on February 7, 2005

Or you could do this instead.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:31 AM on February 7, 2005

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