Out of the Way People – WIF Tribal Travel

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The World’s

Most

Isolated Tribes

The science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. These technologies are commonplace to us, but even in our very modern world there are still a small number of remote tribes living a way of life largely unchanged for thousands of years.

Some of these tribes are so isolated that we know very little about them; others are classified as uncontacted.

This doesn’t necessarily mean they are entirely unaware of or have never encountered anybody from the outside world. All too often they are painfully aware of our existence, as their territory is invaded and their people murdered.

The uncontacted tag simply means that they have no ongoing peaceful contact with the outside world.

This list takes a closer look at the dwindling number of isolated and uncontacted tribes that still cling to existence in what is all too often a hostile world. The rainforests and islands seem to harbor most of them.

8. The Man of the Hole

Deep in the Brazilian rainforest the Man of the Hole lives one of the loneliest existences imaginable. He has survived entirely alone for more than twenty years; so far as is known he has not spoken to another human being in this entire time.

The man has been monitored at a distance since 1996 by FUNAI, a branch of the Brazilian Government dedicated to the protection of indigenous peoples, but even so he remains something of an enigma. His tribe is unnamed, his language unknown, and he has only ever been captured on a couple of grainy photographs and shaky video footage.

We do know that the Man of the Hole, who is believed to be around sixty years old, digs deep pits to capture animals and survives by hunting small prey with a bow and arrow. All attempts to communicate with the man have failed, and he has fired arrows at those attempting to do so.

This aggression is entirely understandable. It’s believed the rest of his tribe were massacred by farmers in 1995, leaving the man of the hole as the last surviving member of his tribe.

7. The Piripkura Tribe

Whatever the Man of the Hole’s people once called themselves, sadly they are not the only tribe facing imminent extinction.

The Piripkura Tribe, known as the butterfly people for the way they flit through the forest, now number no more than three. One of these, a woman called Rita, chose to abandon the nomadic lifestyle and her ancestral rainforest home. She has explained how she made her decision after her family and most of her tribe were murdered.

This leaves just two men, an uncle and his nephew, known as Tamandua and Pakyi. Efforts have to be made to locate the pair every two years in order to maintain their protection, but they are highly elusive and understandably suspicious of outsiders.

They have only a few possessions, the most important of which by far is their palm bark torch. This is so essential that it had been kept continuously lit for almost twenty years. However, in 2018 the flame finally went out.

Tamandua and Pakyi were forced to ask for help. They made contact only for long enough for their torch to be relit, before they once again disappeared back into the rainforest.

6. The Kahawiva Tribe

Once a numerous and settled people who produced much of their food through farming crops such as corn and sweet potatoes, the Kahawiva Tribe are now threatened with extinction. Their old way of life has been destroyed, and the last few survivors eke out a precarious, nomadic existence in Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest.

The rainforest itself is priceless, but its raw resources are worth billions. Loggers, ranchers, and miners have steadily moved in to occupy the Kahawiva Tribe’s territory. However, in 1988 Brazil ruled that any land occupied by indigenous tribes belonged to that tribe.

In some respects this was good news, but the new laws all too often failed to afford Indian tribes any real protection and brought unintended consequences. Many Indians were simply slaughtered by the encroaching forces of civilization. If the Indians weren’t there, they couldn’t have any rights to the land.

There are now as few as twenty to fifty members of the Kahawiva Tribe remaining. The settlements and gardens where they once grew their food have been abandoned. They now exist as hunter gatherers, moving from place to place. This has meant changing their traditional way of life, but their mobility affords them better opportunity to rapidly flee deeper into the forest at the first sign of danger.

5. The Dani People

Spanning 309,000 square miles the island of New Guinea is the second largest island in the world. It had been discovered by Portuguese explorers in 1527, but deep in the heart of its forested interior the Dani People had lived almost entirely undetected for centuries. That was until they were spotted by an eagle-eyed anthropologist named Richard Archbold as he flew overhead in 1938.

The Dani People’s way of life was based around farming, hunting and gathering. Their tools were created from wood, stone, and bone, and each of the men wore little more than a penis gourd. Women did most of the work, such as tending crops and looking after the children, and pigs were the measure by which a man’s wealth was measured

When Richard Archbold published his account of the Dani People, and what he described as their paradise on Earth, it caused something of a sensation.

Perhaps fortunately for the Dani People the rest of the world would be distracted by World War Two for the next several years, and they were left to their own devices for a little longer. However, hostilities eventually came to an end and the mysterious tribe in new Guinea had not been forgotten.

Missionaries descended on the island, all of them intent on civilizing and converting the Dani People.

These once isolated people have now become something of a tourist attraction. However, even now there are a handful of scattered villages where life goes on for the Dani People almost entirely untouched by the outside world. Their numbers are dwindling rapidly as their young people increasingly abandon the old way of life, and it remains to be seen how far into the Twenty-first Century their traditions can survive.

4. The Korubo Tribe

Sydney Possuelo is a Brazilian explorer who has probably done more than anybody else in history to discover and protect South America’s most isolated tribes. He has devoted his life to fighting for the rights of indigenous peoples, and he is rightly considered the world’s leading expert on remote Indian tribes.

Making first contact can be potentially dangerous, and this was certainly the case in 1996 when he led an expedition in search of the Korubo tribe.

Like many other Amazonian tribes, the Korubo are suspicious of outsiders. Many of them had been killed in clashes with ranchers, loggers, and other settlers. However, the Korubo tribe, also known as the club people in recognition of their favored weapon, fought back fiercely and had themselves killed many outsiders who trespassed on their territory.

Possuelo approached with caution, easing himself in gently by leaving gifts such as axes and knives for the Korubo Tribe to find.

This softly-softly approach proved successful, and Possuelo succeeded in convincing the tribe that he posed no threat. The tribe remain extremely isolated and rightfully suspicious of outsiders; what little we do know of them is largely thanks to Sydney Possuelo.

3. The Ayoreo-Totobiegosode

Across the globe something in the region of 31,000 square miles of forest is destroyed every year. This works out to an area roughly the size of Austria.

Nowhere is this deforestation happening faster than in Paraguay’s Gran Chaco Forest, where up to 14 million trees are cut down every month. This rapidly diminishing ecosystem is home to South America’s last uncontacted tribe outside of the Amazon basin.

The Ayoreo people are made up of numerous subgroups, the most isolated of these being the Totobiegosode, which translates as the people from the land of the wild pigs. For generations the Totobiegosode have lived off the forest, cultivating a few crops and hunting tortoises and boar. However, the destructive forces of civilization are drawing ever closer.

Hemmed in on all sides, with their ancestral lands being bulldozed to make way for cattle ranches and soy plantations, some Totobiegosode have emerged from the forest to ask for help. Others have been kidnapped and forced into slavery. As the outside world closes in, it brings diseases to which the tribe have no built up immunity. In recent years a tuberculosis epidemic has cut swathes through the community and cost many lives.

Nobody can be certain how many of the Totobiegosode still survive in the depths of Gran Chaco Forest or what the future holds for them. However, there was some good news in 1996 when the Ayoreo people were granted the land rights to 100,000 hectares of the Gran Chaco Forest. However, they believe this is less than half what may be needed to ensure the survival of their most isolated kin in the forest.

The struggle for land continues, and after a hard-fought, protracted battle the legal rights to another 18,000 hectares was secured from the government in 2019.

2. The Yanomami Tribe

The Yanomami Tribe are another of the isolated tribes that call the Amazon Rainforest home. However, their culture is rather different to most of the others. This is most apparent in that they don’t have any leaders. Rather than take orders from a chief, the tribe get together to discuss any important decisions that might need to be made. The outcome is only decided when group consensus is reached.

Around 20% of the Yanomami tribe’s diet is made up of the monkeys, birds, armadillo, and deer they hunt with bows and arrows. However, the hunter himself will never eat anything he has personally caught. It is instead shared out amongst others.

While the hunting is done almost exclusively by the men, the women use their extensive knowledge of the forest to gather berries and edible insects. It’s believed that they regularly make use of more than 500 different types of plants with which to provide medicine, body paints, dyes, poisons, and even hallucinogenic drugs.

In keeping with a hunter gatherer lifestyle, a typical working day of just four hours is enough to provide the Yanomami with everything they need to survive and thrive.

So far the Yanomami have fared better than many of South America’s isolated tribes, and it’s believed there are still around 35,000 of them living in up to 250 scattered villages across Brazil and Venezuela.

1. The Sentinelese

North Sentinel Island is a scrap of land covering barely more than 23 square miles. It can be found in the Bay of Bengal, just a few hundred miles from India, the world’s second most heavily populated country. Despite this, North Sentinel Island is one of the most remote and mysterious places on the planet.

Only a handful of outsiders have ever set foot on the island, and even fewer have made it off alive. It is home to the Sentinelese Tribe, arguably the most isolated tribe of anywhere on Earth, and somewhat paradoxically also one of the most famous.

Very little is known of the Sentinelese people. We don’t even have any clear idea of how many of them there are, with estimates ranging between anything from 15 to 500 individuals.

Their island home is under the protection of the Indian Government, which periodically attempts to take a census from the air. This is all that can be attempted; the Indian authorities have made it illegal to set foot on the island without permission, and permission to visit is almost never granted.

The law is designed not just to protect the islanders, who have no natural immunity to many common diseases, but also for the safety of any prospective explorers. The Sentinelese have shown little desire to interact with the wider world, they are skilled archers, and when they feel threatened they are prepared to defend themselves with force.

In 2018 this remote tribe became headline news across the world. An American missionary named John Chau paid local fishermen to illegally transport him to the island, where he intended to convert the locals to Christianity.

While there is no question that his actions were well intentioned, he placed both himself and the Sentinelese people in terrible danger.

Chau’s diary entry records that he offered gifts, only for a young boy to fire an arrow that struck his waterproof bible. The young American retreated but unfortunately failed to heed what was a very clear warning. His diary records that he determined to make another attempt to approach the Sentinelese people.

Sadly, his determination cost him his life. The Indian authorities concluded it would be too risky to attempt to recover his body.


Out of the Way People

WIF Tribal Travel

Amazon = River – NOT = Fulfillment Center

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Amazing Mysteries

of THE Amazon

Not Amazon.com

Depending on who is looking, the mysterious jungles of the Amazon inspire many different urges. The wise fear and respect the incredibly diverse biosphere. The curious enter its jungles with a sense of wonder and harbor hopes of discovery, while the greedy view the green tangle of dense forest as something to be destroyed and converted into a different kind of green.

Sometimes called the lungs of the world, the Amazon basin lies mostly in the South American country of Brazil (although the rainforest spans multiple nations including Peru, Colombia and minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and the French territory of French Guiana). The Amazon basin itself is huge — almost 2.9 million square miles — or about 35% of South America. Even with the horrible exploitation of slash and burn farming practices, most of its unexplored rainforests are very difficult to penetrate. Under its deep and thick canopy lie many mysteries…

10. The explorer Francisco de Orellana

After Francisco Pizarro conquered the Incan Empire, his half brother Gonzalo Pizarro (who took part in the Incan destruction) arrived in Peru as the ruler of the city of Quito. The local people spoke of a great Kingdom East of the Andes called the Land of Cinnamon, or the famous golden city of El Dorado. In 1541 Pizarro choose one of his trusted underlings, Francisco de Orellana, to accompany him on his quest to find the Kingdoms. From the beginning, things did not go well with the exploration crusade. Thousands of expedition members died or simply disappeared into the wilderness. After crossing the towering mountain peaks of the Andes only a few dozen remained. Pizarro decided to return to Quito and ordered Orellana to try and find more kingdoms to conquer and to also follow the rivers to the Atlantic.

With about 50 men, Orellana built some riverboats and set off down the Amazon. Along the way he recorded encountering multiple riverside cities that they determined were ruled by an Inland Empire. When Orellana interrogated these people about the location of the cities of gold the locals didn’t know what he was talking about. Thinking they were lying, the European conquistadors resorted to torture, eventually turning most of the peoples they came into contact with against them. On June 24, 1542, they came across another group of riverside dwellers. Warned of Orellana’s hostile actions by natives farther upstream, they attacked the Orellana party. While fighting off the brave combatants, the conquistadors were stunned to be fighting women warriors. This would later remind Europeans of the famous Amazon fighters of Greek legend — thus giving the river its name.  On August 26, 1542, the men reached the Pacific, becoming the first Europeans to travel down the Amazon.

Returning to Spain, Orellana spoke of his travels and the great urban areas he encountered along the river. Yet years later when the Spanish were able to finally get back to the Amazon they found nothing but thick jungle. What happened to all the people he saw?

9. The Amazon jungle was once home to millions

When later expeditions tried to find the civilization that Orellana spoke about all they could find along the Amazon river was jungle. Orellana had died soon after his voyage and could not offer any insight or defense for what people now claimed was, at best, an exaggeration, and at worst a lie in hopes of scamming the Spanish crown out of money for a new expedition. For centuries this was the conventional wisdom of the academic world: that the Amazon jungle was sparsely populated with a smattering of now-famous  not-contacted native tribes.

New research is smashing these assumptions, aided by emerging technology like satellite imagery and LIDAR (a laser imaging system that can harmlessly see through forest canopies). Analyzing this data has revealed that during 1200 and 1500 A.D. a huge civilization of millions lived along the Amazon River system.

It is thought that this civilization was ruined by its success as a complex trading network, as newly introduced European diseases spread to every corner of the Empire. People became infected without ever seeing or coming into contact with a sick European. With most of its people dead and its society destroyed, the jungle grew over the abandoned urban settlements within a few years. When European explorers returned years later all they saw was a thick, impenetrable jungle.

8. Black soil

One of the biggest arguments against a large Amazon civilization was the basin’s famously poor soil quality — soil so bad that it could never have supported a civilization with such a large population. Even today, after the jungle is mowed down and its trees burned up, farmers can only grow a limited yield of crops before the soil becomes exhausted and they have to move on and continue the destructive slash and burn farming cycle.

This argument was finally overturned with the discovery of terra preta. Scientists would find patches of rich, dark soil that they termed terra preta. Crops grown in this soil grew exponentially more than crops grown in normal Amazon soil. At first, it was thought to be naturally occurring but then researchers were able to determine that the soil was made by craftsmen of the ancient Amazon civilization through a process scientists are only now beginning to understand.

7. Boiling river

Deep in the Peruvian jungle lies a mysterious boiling river. For decades it was thought to be a myth; it was only when Andrés Ruzo trekked deep into the forest to try and seek it out that it was confirmed to exist. Traveling up river after river, he finally found a river so hot that if anything falls in it is boiled alive. Its non-volcanic origins are a mystery. The river starts off cool and passes through a hot spring before eventually cooling off again. With no known local volcanic activity, researchers are unsure of the boiling river’s origins.

Some suspect that it was actually accidentally created by unscrupulous prospectors that comb the jungles looking for oil or mineral deposits with little care of the environmental consequences of their Wild Wild West drilling techniques. Similar drilling practices caused an ecological disaster in Indonesia: the Sidoarjo mudflow. There, an oil drilling rig unleashed a mud volcano that, for about a decade, has buried multiple villages in as much as 130 feet mud, forced 60,000 people from their homes, and still spurts out mud to this day.

6. Man-made structures are everywhere in the Amazon 

For decades, impoverished farmers have been plundering the incredibly diverse biosphere of the Amazon. The scale of deforestation is mind-boggling. As of 2019 scientists estimate that almost 20 percent of the original Amazon has been slashed and burned. While this ransacking of the rainforest’s unique ecosystem is unforgivable, there have been some startling discoveries among the burnt stumps and charred endangered species.

As the forest retreats from the fires, hundreds of fortified urban areas, as well as mounds of circles, squares, and other geometric shapes, have been revealed. Researchers estimate that hundreds and possibly thousands of more structures are still hidden by the existing jungles. This has been partially confirmed by limited LIDAR scans. These shapes hint at a complex lost civilization. To create such structures would have required astrologers, as they are aligned to the stars, and artisans with complex math knowledge as shown by structures that are difficult to create, like squares in circles. There would also have to be a society that was big enough to support these specialized roles. Only a fraction of the remaining jungle has been revealed by LIDAR scans. As more of the jungle is scanned, more of the lost civilization will be revealed.

5. Amazon nutrients come from Africa

Amazon soil is notoriously poor in nutrients, the most important of which is phosphorus. What phosphorus the Amazon does have slowly leaks away in the massive Amazon River complex. What is even more amazing is that the nutrients it does have do not come from local sources — not even from the landmass of South America. It is replenished through dust from across the ocean.

Hundreds of million tons of wind-borne, phosphorus-rich dust flows from Africa across the Atlantic ocean and drops onto the Amazon, providing valuable nutrients. Over half of the dust fertilizing the Amazon rainforest comes from the Bodélé depression in Northern Chad in the Sahara desert. Winds stir up the dust, where it rises into the upper atmosphere and is carried to South America and the prevailing winds.

4. Something is mysteriously making little silk towers

Deep in the Peruvian Amazon jungles, scientists like spider hunter Phil Torres were mystified by the incredibly intricate silk structures found throughout its trees. If they were human-sized they wouldn’t look out of place as a city plaza or art sculpture. Dubbed “Silkhenge,” these symmetrical “buildings” hearken back to the architecture of the ancients. The tiny silk constructions have two parts: a tall, central tower, and a circular fence that’s about 6 millimeters across.

After months of investigation, researchers were finally able to determine their purpose when a baby spider emerged from the tower. This shocked the researchers, as a spider species that lays just one or two spider eggs is incredibly rare. Even with all their research, spider experts are still unsure of which species make the Silkhenge complexes.

3. Man is causing droughts in the Amazon

One of the greatest fears of climate scientists is Earth’s carbon release feedback loops. One of the more famous examples is the Arctic permafrost. As climate change increases, the worldwide temperatures rise. Nowhere is this more dangerous than the Arctic. There, rising temperatures are melting the permafrost. This in turn is releasing methane and other greenhouse gases that the permafrost had kept trapped under its frozen mass. This released gas is further raising the temperature, melting more permafrost and releasing more greenhouse gases — a feedback loop.

The Amazon jungles are a great carbon sink. When it rains, the jungles grow, and tons after tons of carbon are locked away into Amazon’s vegetation. So much of the Amazon is being deforested that it is causing droughts — droughts so rare that they were thought to be once in hundred-year events. Now they are happening more frequently as fewer trees mean less rain. Episodes of drought in 2005, 2010 and 2015 are alarming scientists as during droughts carbon is actually released from the Amazon as tree growth is stunted and trees die from thirst. From 2005 and through 2008 the Amazon basin lost an average of 0.27 pentagrams of carbon (270 million metric tons) per year. This causes a feedback loop. More deforestation causes less rainfall and droughts. As the more droughts happen, more of the forest dies, causing more droughts — a climate change feedback loop.

2. There’s a plastic eating fungus in the Amazon

One of the greatest innovations of the modern age has been the invention of plastics. It has also been one of our greatest curses. Plastic litters the landscape, causing huge problems — problems so bad that cities and even countries have banned things like plastic bags. In the oceans, discarded plastic has created huge garbage patches that are bigger than Texas. Oceans are littered with so much plastic that it is being mistaken as food by fish and animals. Dead birds and even whales are washing up on shores with stomachs full of plastic debris. The problem with plastic is also its best feature: it is so durable. An answer to this problem might have been found in the Amazon.

Pestalotiopsis microspora is a fungus that may be our way out of our plastic waste crisis. Discovered in the Amazon, scientists have tweaked the fungi into Fungi Mutarium, which turns plastic into food. At present, the process is too slow to be an effective way to deal with the plastic crisis. Hopefully, in the future, a new industry based on this fungus will be created that will be able to deal with the mountains of plastic waste our world creates every… single… day.

1. Amazon forest is an overgrown garden

The lost Amazon civilization is slowly emerging from oblivion. Stories like that told by Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana are being looked at in a new light. Structures emerging from the ravaged jungles are showing us physical proof of its existence. Their advanced technology, as shown by the mysterious black soil, is now only beginning to be understood. However, one of the biggest vestiges left by their society has been hidden in plain sight.

Studies of the plant species of the Amazon have revealed startling results. While surveying the tree species of the Amazon, scientists discovered a large percentage (too high to be by chance) are domesticated flora like the Brazil nut, the Amazon tree grape, and the ice cream bean tree. The results show that the lost Amazon civilization was advanced in silviculture — or the science of identifying, domesticating, growing, and cultivating trees. Not just any trees, but trees that provide enough food to support millions of people.

The Amazon isn’t a random collection of trees, as would be expected if it was untouched wilderness. No, the Amazon jungles are really just a giant collection of overgrown, man-made orchards.


Amazon = River –

NOT = Fulfillment Center