"Uncontacted" tribe contacted in Javari region of Amazon

April 9, 2001 10:25 AM   Subscribe

"Uncontacted" tribe contacted in Javari region of Amazon
A team of Brazilian anthropologists has made contact with a group of indigenous people in the Amazon region. They had initially only wanted to learn about uncontacted groups indirectly, but chose to seek out this group to make sure they weren't being exploited by a neighboring group.
posted by rschram (9 comments total)
Sounds like those antropologists are in big trouble for disobeying the Prime Directive.
posted by darren at 10:38 AM on April 9, 2001

and what would the anthropologists have done if the tribe was being exploited by the neighboring group?
posted by tolkhan at 10:47 AM on April 9, 2001

NEWS FLASH: Instead of being exploited by a neighboring tribe, which woudl fall nder natural selection, they will now be exploited by the western world, including wonders of media hype, disease, fundraising, and other such exploitations. The only group who opposes such an exploitation is the neighboring religious sects, who until recently had been able to exploit these indigenous people with no interference from those "damnable anthropologists".

posted by eljuanbobo at 11:01 AM on April 9, 2001

Not just the Prime Directive, but also the Heisenberg Principle. Quantum Anthropology, anyone?
posted by daveadams at 11:12 AM on April 9, 2001

Was the tribe really lost or were they just trying to be hard to find?

Could they be Alec Baldwin's tribe that left after Bush went into office?
posted by john at 1:54 PM on April 9, 2001

When I heard about this on NPR this morning I thought of the same thing... the Prime Directive. Do anthropologists have a Prime Directive? Or have we rooted out so many indegenous populations that it's too late for one? Would an anthropologist's Prime Directive mean the scientist couldn't bring a pencil and paper? What about clothes? And how safe would a naked pasty-skinned prof be in that situation?
posted by owen at 2:50 PM on April 9, 2001

safe for him/herself or for the native people?

me naked in a jungle would scar anyone who was present.
posted by th3ph17 at 3:09 PM on April 9, 2001

Would an anthropologist's Prime Directive mean the scientist couldn't bring a pencil and paper?

If this is the standard of what counts as impact, then it's far far far too late for anthropologists. Recall that there had been about 250-300 years of contact between Europeans and people in the New World, more in other places, that one might consider "exotic" by the time anything approximating anthropological fieldwork appears.
posted by rschram at 3:30 PM on April 9, 2001

The whole story sounds somewhat dubious. If the tribe, as the article states, "already had contact with our world through traded objects," then I'm not sure what "uncontacted" really means. Either by real-world anthropological standards, or by Star Trek standards, these people already had contact with "us." The myth of a society following its "normal cultural evolution" without outside interference (as the Prime Directive puts it) is just that--a myth, usually a Western fantasy projection about supposedly "unspoiled primitives."
Does anybody remember the "Gentle Tasaday"? They were a supposed tribe discovered in the Philippines in the 1970s, who supposedly had never had any contact with outside civilization. It later turned out that the existence of the tribe was a total hoax--basically a scam by people in the corrupt Marcos government to make money by creating international excitement over the supposed find, attracting scientific expeditions, etc; with local peasants terrorized into playing the roles of "primitive tribespeole."
posted by Rebis at 8:00 PM on April 9, 2001

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