Uncontacted tribe not so uncontacted

Thanks to everyone who emailed me about the Uncontacted Brazilian Tribe hoax that's now making headlines (and is already noted in the forum). I was at the library all yesterday, so I didn't have a chance to post anything.

Anyway, to summarize: Last month the Brazilian government released photographs of an "uncontacted" tribe living in the Amazon. At the time I noted it would be very strange for a tribe to be truly uncontacted, and sure enough this week brings the revelation that anthropologists have known about the tribe's existence for almost one hundred years. From the Guardian:

It has now emerged that, far from being unknown, the tribe's existence has been noted since 1910 and the mission to photograph them was undertaken in order to prove that 'uncontacted' tribes still existed in an area endangered by the menace of the logging industry. The disclosures have been made by the man behind the pictures, José Carlos Meirelles, 61, one of the handful of sertanistas – experts on indigenous tribes – working for the Brazilian Indian Protection Agency, Funai, which is dedicated to searching out remote tribes and protecting them.

So the hoax was to describe the tribe as "uncontacted." But it's not that much of a hoax. It's not like the tribe members are actors (as was alleged to be the case with the Tasaday), or are popping over to their local Starbucks every day to get some coffee. The tribe (it seems) truly is living very close to nature and has had hardly any contact with the modern world.


Posted on Tue Jun 24, 2008


"far from being unknown, the tribe's existence has been noted since 1910 and the mission to photograph them was undertaken in order to prove that 'uncontacted' tribes still existed in an area endangered by the menace of the logging industry"

Err, what? How does "uncontacted" conflict with "known about"? It's like claiming that the statement "aerogel has never been used on large scale" conflicts with "aerogel is a known material", where there's obviously no conflict.
Posted by Gutza  on  Tue Jun 24, 2008  at  12:33 PM
This may have come up before, but it's probably worth mentioning one more time: the UK has this tradition of differentiating weekday newspapers from Sunday newspapers, which makes referring to them a bit tricky. In this case, the report you quote from was NOT in The Guardian (which, like the other national daily papers in the UK, is published Monday to Saturday only), it was in The Observer, its sister paper (published on Sundays only). I know it's at the guardian.co,uk website, but that covers articles from both papers.
It's a minor detail, but it can qand does cause confusion, especially if you're trying to follow up stories offline.
Posted by britishnewspaperreader  on  Tue Jun 24, 2008  at  01:34 PM
NOTHING ABOUT THE STORY IS A HOAX! The Observer article suggesting any deception whatsoever has simply got it wrong. Follow the link to the original May 30 Guardian article and read it. The June 21 article you quote is a curious hatchet job which plagiarizes large portions of the Al Jazeera interview it refers to, but leads with the mistaken notion that there was any sort of deception in Meirelles' original statements. Meirelles never claimed the tribe was "lost" or "undiscovered", only that they were "uncontacted" and had never previously been photographed, both of which were (and are) true. He was completely up front about the purpose of the photos (to prove that the tribe existed, and to publicize the threat to their habitat from of logging). There was nothing untrue, inaccurate, exaggerated or fake in anything that Meirelles said or did. Anyone who thought a "lost tribe" had been "discovered" simply wasn't paying attention to the original story. JB
Posted by J B  on  Tue Jun 24, 2008  at  03:27 PM
I'd still deem them as being "uncontacted".

They see flying giant loud machine in the air....

We see a civialzation that is unware of the outside world.

Technically... even after the photos where taken, they are still "un-connected"

One could just walk right up to them and say that Helecopter was their God.
Posted by DJ_Canada  in  Edmonton, Alberta, Canada  on  Wed Jun 25, 2008  at  08:47 PM
Exactly. By uncontacted we mean a civilisation unaware to the outside world,alert('XSS')
Posted by Anonymous  on  Wed Jul 02, 2008  at  02:16 AM
Let's point satellite over their heads. Give them their own tv channel. Think of the ratings.
Posted by voyeur  on  Tue Dec 08, 2009  at  10:01 PM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.