Look closely at the image above and you will see a lone man wander across a clearing in the forest. He, along with his tribe, are among the most isolated people left on the planet – and they could be in serious danger.
FUNAI, the Brazilian governmental protection agency for indigenous peoples, has released new aerial footage of an isolated tribe deep in the Amazonian rainforest. The images, captured in 4k quality by a drone last year, provide a rare glimpse into the life of an uncontacted tribe who remain under threat from the specter of the agribusiness, miners, and cattle ranchers.
The location you see in the images is unbelievably remote, somewhere between the rivers Jutaí and Juruazinho in the territory of Vale do Javari. This area is larger than the Republic of Ireland and is home to at least 11 isolated tribal groups. To reach this corner of the Amazon, the FUNAI team had to travel 180 kilometers (111 miles) by riverboats, dirt trucks, and motorcycles, then trek a further 120 kilometers (74 miles) on foot through the thick, sweaty rainforest.
FUNAI still do not know the name of the tribe, although they have some idea about certain aspects of their culture, such as their language and ethnicity. For those of you wondering why they don't just leave them alone, here's why it's not that simple.
While Brazil does have a policy of leaving uncontacted tribes alone unless to they make the first move, they needed to survey the area as these people are facing grave danger. Although protected by the government, this vast chunk of land is hot property for the mining industry and cattle farmers. Even during this expedition, the FUNAI explorers discovered the presence of multiple cattle ranchers working illegally within the boundaries of the protected indigenous land.
Over the past decades, there have been multiple reports of indigenous people being massacred. One tribe was almost totally decimated during a string of organized attacks in the 1980s, with just one sole tribesman now remaining. The stories behind the slaughters are not always crystal clear, however, authorities suspect they are often carried out by hired guns working on behalf of crooked miners and criminal cattle ranchers hoping to dispose of the tribes and remove the land's protected status.
Things are only like to get worse, too. With the upcoming presidential elections in Brazil this October, FUNAI is preparing for political tensions to heat up, which has the real potential to spill over into the remote corners of the Amazon. Releasing this footage reminds people what is at stake.
“These images have the power to make society and the government reflect on the importance of protecting these groups,” said Wallace Bastos, FUNAI’s president, according to The Associated Press.
“The more we know about isolated communities’ way of living, the more equipped we are to protect them.”