It’s hard to believe, but indigenous tribes continue to exist on our planet. These tribes have never had contact with the Internet, iPads, mass-produced food, manufactured drugs, rock & roll, rapid transportation, TV and the other myriad wonders and vices of our society. And like many living beings we encounter, their continued existence is in question.
The BBC series Human Planet recently released the first aerial footage of one of these mysterious tribes, living in the Brazilian Rainforest. In this stunning film, shot from 1km away using a stabilized zoom lens in order to minimize the impact on the tribe, we see the red-painted tribes-people curiously aware of the plane, holding staffs and loosely congregating around a main lodge and other buildings.
Little is known about their language or customs and their very existence is an ethical challenge to our plugged in civilization. Does this tribe have a right to live undisturbed? Like the prime directive in the Star Trek Series, should we have a non- interference policy when encountering cultures with less developed technology?
One man fighting to save the tribes is Jose Carlos Meirelles, an official who works for FUNAI, a Brazilian Government Agency that protects the region’s indigenous people. These isolated tribes are under the constant threat posed by illegal logging and mining and tribes-people have been killed by loggers in the past. Cultural contamination is a slower death, but a death all the same. As a consequence, Meirelles has decided to take his fight public, believing the tribe’s continued survival depends on proving and publicizing their existence.
“One image of them has more impact than a thousand reports,” Meirelles says. “There future doesn’t depend on them, it depends on us, our conscience…. they remind us it’s possible to live in a different way. They’re the last free people on the planet.”
Brazil is thought to be home to around 70 isolated tribes, the last free people on earth. Can a civilization with vastly superior technology refrain from exploiting and wiping out another culture? Let’s hope Meirelles plan works so these tribes can continue to exist without interference.
To help this tribe, go to Uncontacted Tribes and sign the petition or donate.