Monday, October 17, 2011

Land of the lost

October 16, 2011LinkSource: New York Post

This nameless tribe lives in the Amazon, along the Brazilian-Peruvian border. Its existence was only first confirmed to the world with photos taken by the Brazilian government in 2008 and again earlier this year.

Brazil’s slice of the Amazon rainforest is home to 26 such uncontacted tribes -- more than any other place in the world. Another tribe, consisting of 200 people, was just added to the list in June, while leads for other possible groups are still being investigated.

Many of them have never been photographed, though aggressive loggers, ranchers and drug dealers threaten their lives -- and explorers and government agencies seek to protect them and keep them unmolested by the outside world.

In 2002, National Geographic journalist Scott Wallace went on an expedition in the Amazon to locate one such uncontacted tribe and writes about the complex and arduous journey in his book “Unconquered.”

Along the way, he tells the story of the history of western Amazon: the deforestation and abuse, the conflict between the white man and the Indians, and the continuation of peoples who live isolated in this world of overexposure and hyper-connectivity.

“We can’t almost do anything anymore without it being stored in a computer somewhere, yet there are these people who live in a completely separate dimension that have never heard of Jesus Christ or Osama bin Laden,” Wallace told The Post. “It’s amazing.”

Given the history of pillaging and abuse -- guns, theft and germs in the jungle -- it’s amazing that authentic, isolated tribes still remain.

When the rubber boom hit in the 1800s, exports from the Amazon quadrupled each decade until the early 1900s. Deforestation coupled with colonization changed the Amazon dramatically.

The pace of destruction only increased after World War II, with the advent of the chainsaw. By the mid-1960s, Brazil’s military dictatorship opened up new roads and encouraged people to migrate to the region, offering up cheap 250-acre plots to ranchers.

Campaigns hyped the region with slogans, “A Land Without Men, For Men Without Land,” according to Monte Reel, author of the recent book “The Last of the Tribe.”

A million people moved into the area and deforestation hit unprecedented levels, with 20,000 miles cut each year by 1996.
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