Contacting the Metyktire tribe in the Amazon

Brazil is home to one of the last places in the world where pockets of people, which haven’t been contacted by the ‘outside world’, live. In order to mitigate issues with that come with contact, Brazil has Fundacao Nacional do Indio, or FUNAI, an official government initiated agency. FUNAI is in charge of protecting these peoples interests and their cultures. It has the legal duty and rights to accompany the lives of Indians all across Brazil. FUNAI is also the governing body that takes census on Brazil’s indigenous peoples and because of this it is the best source of information about Brazilian Indians. FUNAI estimates that there are today about 700,000 Indians in Brazil, grouped in about 215 tribes.

And with news that a tribe which has had no formal contact with Western civilization has been located in a remote Amazon region, we can bump up the estimate to 700,087 native peoples. Mario Moura, a spokesman for the FUNAI, says,

“The Metyktire tribe, with about 87 members, was found last week in an area that is difficult to reach because of thick jungle and a lack of nearby rivers some 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) northwest of Rio de Janeiro.”

The Metyktire tribe is considered a subgroup of the Kayapo tribe because their language is similiar to the Kayapo and they have similarities in dress, for example women shave the tops of their heads. I’m not trying to infringe on copy rights with sharing with you the photograph of a Kayapo child Kayapo Childfound from Tatiana Cardeal‘s photostream. Rather, I’m using this image to provide you with a example on what these people look like. The Metyktire live on the 12.1-million-acre Menkregnoti Indian reservation. This reservation was made to help indigenous peoples maintain their traditional culture, language and lifestyle.

The rain forest in Brazil’s state of Para, where the Kayapo and Metyktire live, are dense. There is a good chance that there are more uncontacted tribes there. Miriam Ross, a campaigner with the indigenous rights group Survival International, estimates there are more than 100 uncontacted tribes across the world,

“This proves that often we just don’t know whether these people are there or not,”

So why aren’t people making contact with these tribes? Speaking on behalf of anthropology, the general sentiment among anthropologists, is to no longer attempt to contact isolated groups. We instead demarcate the land and wait for them to make contact. Why? Well, there is a very good chance these people know about the ‘Others’, that being us the contacted people — the Westerners. They are most likely very well aware of the differences between the way we live and the way they live and have made a conscious decision to avoid contact. Why bugg’em if that’s what they want?

16 thoughts on “Contacting the Metyktire tribe in the Amazon

  1. Hmm…outside influence isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Medicine and technology could very well save a tribe suffering from disease.

    Taking the initiative to visit a tribe may be beneficial to them, even though they did not invite you.

    1. Lan Xin – you are an idiot. It is a known fact that the diseases we carry in our body that do not harm us will absolutely kill people living in tribes that have never had contact with the outside world. What makes you think that introducing disease is beneficial. Furthermore, how can you think that their own medicines are not capable of maintaining their own good health. It is another fact that many of our “modern” medicines come from the depths of the jungles in the first place. As far as technology goes, what kind of things could we offer a group of people that have survived for 1000’s of years without what we depend on?

  2. Lan Xin, outside influence on isolated groups has always been a bad thing for Amazonians and other Native Americans. Contact from outsiders have decimated Native American cultures for the last 500-600 years.

    Sometimes people are just fine living with the technologies and practices, like medicine, they have been for ages. This problem is also occuring in Africa, with the Hadza and pressure from the outside.

    Taking the initiative to visit a tribe that clearly doesn’t want to be contacted is not beneficial to them. It is hegemonic and imposing. Your statement is very ethnocentric, i.e. their way of living life is not necessarily worse than yours & mine and does not necessarily need fixing.

  3. i agree with KK’s view. we only need to look back in history to see what were consequnces on natives when they met westerners :o( anyone not seeing our negative influence on planet and native tribes should wake up before it’s too late …

  4. Uncontacted tribes generally do not suffer from disease. They are healthy human beings; however they do not have immunization to common diseases found in civilization so contacting them would without a doubt swiftly kill them off.

  5. Soy venezolano y me parece realmente increíble que aún existan comunidades indígenas que nunca han tenido contacto con la civilización moderna. Gran regalo del tiempo tener una ventana para apreciar la forma, creencias y costumbres que tantos años han estado “invisibles”…

  6. Hmm. Yes and no. To say that natives live healthy lives, then Westerners come and suddenly natives start dying of say measles has a grain of truth. Measles has devastated indigenous populations in the past but a healthy jungle inhabitant is like a snowball’s chance in hell. There is simply too much malaria, onchocerciasis, parasitosis, that nobody is healthy in the Amazon. Live and let die then? Unless we could send sterile anthropological robots, I think these peoples deserve to be contacted (by healthy and specialized people, not garimpeiros) and their lives improved healthwise. A bunch of 87 is proof many more died of disease or warfare. But only if we hold back our MacDonalds, video, ipod mentality.

  7. It’s obvious that these tribes have survived for hundreds of years without the conveniences of modern day society. There is a great lesson to be learned from these tribes. They are self sufficient requiring only the basic needs that they are able to provide through hunting and fishing, and the abundance of edible vegetation in the rain forest. These people do not need or want to be “civilized”. Look at what civilization is doing to the rest of the world with our increased crime, poverty, homelessness, destruction of our planet and much much more. We need to leave these people alone and let them continue to live in the harmonious lifestyle they apparently love. I am grateful that Survival International made these photos available for the world to see. My only concern is the fear that the tribal people must have felt when the enormeous big bird (airplane) flew over them. We should all pray for these people. Perhaps we can all learn a valuable lesson from these so called “uncivilized” people, especially when we see what “civilized” people are doing to our planet and mankind.

  8. Beyond the points made by KK, I believe that we have a tendency to act in stepping-stone behavior. If we take a small step to interfere with their medicine for what -we- accept as bettering their lives, we may soon find justification for more frequent, larger interferences.
    Their way has worked for them for a very long time. It’s unfair to impose our way upon them, simply because we believe it is better. For an example most people can relate to – door-to-door religious missionaries that try to solicit their religion to you. They believe it will save you, but you’re probably more than content living your current beliefs.
    Even some modern-day “cures” – only work because we believe they will. Why take that away from them?

  9. Leave the uncontacted people alone! We are less ‘advanced’ than they are, if you look at what we have done to the world!

  10. The so called ‘civilized world’ should just leave them alone and not make contact with them again. Yes it was pretty awesome to see some photos of a tribe that had never been seen by us before, and yes i’d like to know more about them, BUT who are we to probe and delve into the lives of a civilization that has more than likely been around longer than we have? Leave them be! We should be probing and delving into matters that concern our race not theirs! Thank god for Survival International and NOT the government!

  11. We heartily agree with those who believe that these people should be left alone to live their lives as they have always done. In so many ways they are wiser than us!

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