Courtesy FENAMAD
For SI, one of the glaring problems with the anthropologists plan involves their assertion about the “success” story of the Northern Ache people of Paraguay.

‘Controlled Contact’ Illegal and Dangerous Say Indigenous Leaders

Rick Kearns

Indigenous people from Latin America are warning that the idea of controlled contact with un-contacted people is illegal and dangerous; they've written an open letter of protest to the two U.S. anthropologists who advocated the idea in an editorial in Science magazine earlier this year.

"We the undersigned organizations wholeheartedly reject the proposal of U.S. anthropologists Robert Walker and Kim Hill to forcibly contact uncontacted tribes. The proposal is both dangerous and illegal, and undermines the rights that Indigenous Peoples have fought long and hard for," read the letter signed by 10 indigenous organizations from Brazil, Paraguay and Peru, and supported by Survival International (SI) an advocacy group supporting tribal peoples.

In the anthropologists’ editorial, published in June, Walker and Hill argued that "a well-designed contact can be quite safe" in comparison to the many disastrous interactions that have been occurring in this hemisphere for several centuries. The anthropologists asserted that with the trained and culturally competent personnel, the contacts could be "humane and ethical."

The indigenous leaders disagree. "The anthropologists claim that uncontacted tribes are unviable, but this dangerous myth plays into the hands of those who wish to invade and exploit tribal people’s ancestral homelands. The real threats against uncontacted tribes’ futures are genocidal violence, the invasion of their lands and theft of their natural resources, and prevailing racist attitudes," the wrote.

For SI, one of the glaring problems with the anthropologists plan involves their assertion about the “success” story of the Northern Ache people of Paraguay.  The anthropologists did not mention that by the time of the cited interaction with the Ache, over 38 percent of their people had died “as a result of first contact.” The Ache are now suing the government of Paraguay for this genocide.

RELATED: Genocide of the Ache People of Paraguay Will Be Tried in Argentina

One of the indigenous leaders who has joined the criticism of the anthropologists plan is the internationally known Davi Kopenawa, Yanomami shaman and President of the Hutukara Yanomami Association.

RELATED: ‘We Don’t Want to Die Again’: Yanomami Leader Kopenawa

“The place where the uncontacted Indians live, fish, hunt and plant must be protected. The whole world must know that they are there in their forest and that the authorities must respect their right to live there” Kopenawa said. The Yanomami have been advocating for the removal of gold miners on their lands in Brazil.

One of the other reasons why the pro-contact plan has drawn international attention is due to Peru’s announcement this year of their intention to attempt a controlled contact with the Mashco-Piro people. This effort was also met with strong opposition from indigenous and allied peoples.

RELATED: Protect the Uncontacted: Peru’s Plan for Isolated Peoples

As of press time, neither editors at Science nor Anthropologists Walker and Hill have responded to the open letter.

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WinterWindTeacher's picture
Submitted by WinterWindTeacher on
I agree that there should be no contact. These uncontacted Indigenous groups are free and undoubtedly healthy. Their world is unique and a reality of life before previous unwanted and unnecessary contact took place throughout the America's. The main principle of contact at that time was exploitation and possession of all natural resources and the total extermination of these Indigenous populations; the largest holocaust in history took place in North America with over 100 million lives stolen in the name of God. The schools of Anthropology would be more profound for academia and in publishing their research if they were to study the effects of such previous contacts; the desecration and destruction of the many cultures. There is the lost or forgotten languages, the constant coping and stress of foreign intervention, the loss of traditional ways of living, the loss of independence, loss of liberty, the constant conflict of being integrated into separation and isolation, loss of health due to dietary deficiencies, loss of the natural environment, loss of natural resources. The burdens of poverty, hunger, substandard housing and homelessness, landless, unemployment, stagnation, domination, violations of natural human rights, displacement from traditional lands, forced relocations, violence, addictions, imprisonment, homicide, suicide, abandonment, divorce, loss of one or both parents for children and youth, poor education, lack of cultural sensitivity, relativity and understanding, dependencies. After accumulating all this relevant data; the conclusion would without doubt reveal that contact has been a devastatingly disastrous criminal affair of epic proportions that reverberate unabated into these modern times both to the Native peoples and to the natural environment. It would be timely for the global summit meeting if such a report had been undertaken and presented as a vital record and relative to the grave concern of global warming and the continued disintegration of all parts of the natural environment that is steadily taken place. Indicators clearly point in reference to the neglect, mismanagement and irresponsible social and economic engineering of life as unsupportable, indefensible, and the absolute immediate need to abort such practices. Radical change can have the greatest impact and perhaps stave off the brunt of such colossal disasters in their gathering stages if acted upon without delay. Slowing the velocity of destructive forces will take cooperation as it was the thoughtless cooperation and economic consumption that built them.The length of time needed is unknown for the harnessing, slowing and reversing these destructive forces gathering energy from all parts of the earth and atmosphere. The natural life will speak to its well being in time or will remain silent so long as the disaster continues. The Indigenous nations that western countries were so determined to annihilate are the salvation and saving grace to life; deep into their consciousness they have always known how to live with the earth. It would not be a matter of consulting individuals or their nations - the governments are obsolete and are necessarily failed attempts at leadership or governing. It will become pertinently clear that those who care about and for life will eagerly understand the intelligence of the wise - after all, they have witnessed and spoke all along that the way against life they looked at that was replacing theirs was impossible for earth, themselves and divine intelligence. They understood basic simple truths that the complex machines of states can not fathom nor be counseled to. Free the People, Free the Earth! Let them go old Pharaoh, old Caesar, old King - go back to your tombs of kingdom ashes and dust... You have no choice murderers, liars and thieves of yore - the wind has spoken and so it is, it shall be cleansed and made holy and pure. Blessed Ancient Wise one bless all this life, bless the cleansing, all her divine creation.