"Twilight for the Forest People"

Don Osborn dzo at BISHARAT.NET
Sun Jun 8 12:53:56 UTC 2008

FYI. The article frames a dilemma in terms of "whether to leave them
[isolated peoples] to their fate or to assimilate them into the larger world
before they are extinguished." I assume the range of options is not quite
that simple. Pardon the dumb question, but are indigenous groups of any sort
involved in initial contacts, or is this still an area dominated by people
from the dominant cultures?



Twilight for the Forest People



Published: June 8, 2008


The world is closing in on the few remaining people who live in such remote
isolation as to seem not of this world.




A reminder of their situation came recently with the publication of aerial
photographs of the encampment of a tribe in the upper reaches of the Amazon
River in Brazil, near the border with Peru. The pictures showed a line of
neat huts and people looking up at the small airplane. Two men, their faces
and bodies painted red, raised bows and arrows as a pointed warning to the


As survivors whose continued survival is very much in doubt, these last
primitive tribes hidden away in the planet's most remote reaches pose a
dilemma for their would-be protectors: whether to leave them to their fate
or to assimilate them into the larger world before they are extinguished.


Neither course promises a happy ending.


If they remain isolated, these populations may cling to their way of life a
little longer. Some have moved deeper into the rainforest, away from
encroaching loggers and oil prospectors. But the bulldozers and saws seem
destined to end their solitude.


If they are removed and survive the exposure to diseases they have never
encountered, it is likely that the unique knowledge and beliefs that define
them, the spirit of their life, will probably slip away.


The Brazilian government's National Indian Foundation, Funai, came upon the
encampment as it was making one of its regular patrols of the scattered
settlements of tribes in the State of Acre who are thought to have had
little direct contact with the outside world. The picture-taking plane had
no intention of landing: it was only checking the location and apparent
well-being of the people.


Survival International, a London-based organization supporting the cause of
struggling indigenous people, estimates that at least 100 similarly isolated
tribes remain in the world, about half of them in Brazil and Peru.





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