Uncontacted Tribes Again

Andy Graham at HoboTraveler has pointed to an article in the Pucallpa newspaper Diario Ahora, dated June 5, 2008, with the headline Indígenas de Yurúa señalan que no existe población no contactada, Indigenous People of Yurúa Say There Are No Uncontacted Populations. The cover photograph, below, is captioned Supuestos no contactados dicen que ONG pago para fotografiarios desnudos, Allegedly Uncontacted People Claim that NGO Paid Them for Nude Photos. The article states that Murunahua from the Ucuyali region travelled to Pucallpa to rebut the claim that uncontacted people lived in their region, and that they claimed the Peruvian World Wildlife Foundation and AIDESEP, the Associación Interétnicos de Desarrolla de la Selva Peruana, had paid them to pose naked as an uncontacted and "voluntarily isolated" tribe, in order to keep the timber industry from operating in the region.

The irony is that the Murunahua have in fact been decimated by contact with the logging industry. An estimated 60 per cent of the Murunahua Territorial Reserve has been cut by loggers; after contact with loggers in 1996, more than 50 percent of the Murunahua died of imported diseases.

It is impossible to tell whether the Murunahua in Pucallpa had been paid by WWF and AIDESEP to pretend to be an uncontacted people, or had been paid by the timber industry to say that WWF and AIDESEP had paid them. The true irony is that focusing on the romantic notion of of uncontacted tribes serves only to divert attention away from genuine harms.

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