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 found 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?