Uncontacted tribes of the Andaman Islands: do we approach?

Andaman islands
The field of anthropology has a long held fascination with so called ‘stone age’ modern people and most especially with uncontacted hunter-gatherers. It is believed that hunter-gatherers provide us with a window into our own distant pasts, showing us who we were before the advent of agriculture or use of metals. I’m an archaeologist who is currently studying early human evolution and hunter-gatherer research at Masters level, and as you can imagine it is very much the moral and ethical minefield. In my own opinion, modern day hunter-gatherers have modern day adaptations: their culture and their technology are as modern as our own, just designed for a different economy. Their economy is the only true analogy: a full dependence of wild resources and this is now becoming rarer to find as hunter-gatherer groups become increasingly impacted by industrialised people. For example, the use of knapped stone tools is now almost unheard of as hunter-gatherers trade their resources with local agriculturalists for metal.
We now have a situation of there being left on our planet only the smallest number of uncontacted hunter-gatherer people, who largely exist under complete shielding from the outside world. These legal shields are put in place by industrialised people for a number of reasons: protection from disease (uncontacted peoples will have scant immunity to modern day diseases), science (to avoid genetic contamination from the outside world) and heritage (to preserve their unique cultures and technologies). The concerns about infection are common sense and important but the scientific and human heritage reasons are less easy to justify, because estrangement from the outside world is also an estrangement from modern healthcare, rights and education.

I will now take you to the Andaman Islands: a very important region for uncontacted people. This is an archipelago of islands in the Bay of Bengal, of the Indian Ocean, long known for its reclusive and aggressive hunter-gatherers. The western region of Andoman Island is the home of the Jarawa forest people who have lived here for thousands of years. They have existed uncontacted and have been known to be aggressive until recently, when due to loss of forest they began to emerge in need of food. This encroachment was mainly due to the construction of the Great Andaman trunk road. An outpost is now in place where they can access food and medicine, and they also have begun to exchange goods at local markets. However, at the same time, legal restrictions are in place to protect their remaining territory but in terms of immunity they are still very vulnerable. Of around 4 tribes, the Jarawa are now the only surviving indigenous culture on Andoman island and the Indian government’s approach has been described as an excellent model in indigenous rights. I would agree that here a good balance has been met: the encroachment on their land was investigated and all further encroachment stopped. Any decision about contact must be from the Jarawa.

Off the west coast of the Andoman island lies Sentinel Island, upon which live one of the planet’s most uncontacted people, possibly uncontacted for as long as 50,000 years and therefore potentially representing the first wave of modern Homo sapiens to leave Africa, destined eventually for Australia. Reports from antiquity describe the aggressive and uncontactable nature of these people, supporting ideas of prolonged isolation.

They met the public eye after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which swept over the island, causing unknown harm to this community. Anthropologists flew over the island in a helicopter to assess their safety and needs and were attacked to the extent that any aid attempts had to be abandoned. Images of the Sentinelese firing arrows at the helicopter met the world press creating a striking image of an aggressive people who did not wish to be disturbed. It is not known why the Sentinelese are so aggressive but they appear to have been so throughout their known history. In 2006 they killed 2 fishing poachers who strayed too close to the island, burying their bodies in shallow graves on the beach. This has created a difficult problem: the relatives demanded the Indian government return the bodies to them, with the Indian government being unwilling to encroach on the people of the island. Survival International, a major charity that defends indigenous rights, has campaigned in the defence of the Sentinelese in this matter, asking that they remain undisturbed. Attempts to photograph the beach graves from air resulted in aggressive attack from Sentinelese arrows, though the helicopter was able to descend low enough to blow sand from the graves to reveal the remains of the dead fishermen. However, at that point, the evidence mission needed to be abandoned for safety reasons and no more approaches have been made.

sentinelese_jpg_2467150b

It can be said that the Sentinelese have expressed their wish to be left alone, and ethnographically, we can see that, around the world, almost all hunter-gatherers who’s space has been invaded by industrialised people, have suffered terribly. This comes from not only disease, but also human rights abuses including violent attacks. Hunger becomes a problem also as their territories reduce (a small group of hunter-gatherers require an extensive territory in order to access enough calories). However, the greatest harm appears to come from the loss of a lifeway: of their heritage, culture and adaptations. In situations where hunter-gatherers lose their land, they often then rely on government donations and integration programs. In peoples subjected to such extreme changes, alcohol dependency, poverty and mental health problems reach high levels. Therefore there can be good arguments for protecting uncontacted people such as the Sentinelese from the outside world, and allowing them to continue their unique lifeways undisturbed.

However, we must also consider that fears and aversion based on occult beliefs and superstitions do not necessarily constitute informed consent with regards to the Sentinelese self-enforced isolation. Also, by being isolated, certain articles of the UN convention of human rights are contravened for the people in their community. These are:

Article 25: the right to modern healthcare

Article 13: the right to freedom of movement

Article 16 (2): the right to consent in marriage (females are often coerced into marriage in hunter-gatherer groups, as in many other societies. For example, in the otherwise extremely peaceful Mbuti people of the Ituri forest, Africa, girls on menarge may be beaten by relatives into a marriage.)

Article 5: torture. The use of torture in rites of passage are well documented, from circumcision of girls to ceremonies for boys. In the Lese people of Congo, boys aged from 8-11 are circumcised without healthcare by a masked shaman, and then confined and tortured for a number of weeks.

We therefore have to remember that uncontacted tribes may not be existing in a romantic idyll. Their opportunities in life will likely be highly restricted and policed by their immediate communities and females may be at particular risk of exploitation and abuse.

So what should we do?

I don’t think science and heritage should ever provide justification for isolating communities and I don’t believe that a hunter-gatherer group is a window onto ourselves 40,000 years ago (the time modern human behaviour appears archaeologically). I think they have the right to know about us and our world in an informed way. I believe their lands should be legally protected, but with medical outposts in place, if they wish it. I believe that quarantined anthropologists, if welcomed into their communities, can enhance their lives and ours if their research is ethical. Such recording of their lifeways provides them with heritage for their future while introducing them gently to the outside world. These peoples should not be made to suffer without science-based healthcare, or distressed or oppressed members left without a means to escape. In this way, their lifeways and lands are preserved along with their human rights.

In the 1990s, peaceful contact was made by boat with the Sentinelese. Coconuts were floated out across the water to a group on the beach and they called for more from the boat. The coconuts were gratefully received and no altercation occurred. Transmission of pathogens was minimised.

Survival International is correct that these rare cultures need protection, but we have no excuses for estranging them completely in the name of science or heritage. They are not living fossils, but modern people with unique needs and the right at least to know the world beyond their boundaries. They have the right to know about us, and our antibiotics, insulin, anti-malarial drugs and pain relief. My opinion is that more peaceful contact be made with the Sentinelese, leading to introduction of a quarantined medically trained anthropologist to enlighten all involved, while their lands and culture remain protected.

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24 comments

  1. You make much of these people’s ‘right to know’, but what about the right NOT to know? Is there not also a right to remain ignorant? At the very least, what gives us the right to impose knowledge on others?

    1. Diogo Varela · · Reply

      I totally agree. Why to know the outside world should be a “right”? They probaly don’t have diabetes or cardiovascular diseases due to good dietary habits. They don’t have the diseases we create to ourselves. Just leave the guys happy and alone!!

  2. Hi, thanks for reading and for your reply. I think its an incredibly complex issue also with regards to ‘their right not to know’ because even with that we are making decisions for them. Paternalistic ones in fact. We do not know what their choice would be, and we cannot know unless they have the information to make that choice.

    Perhaps the main thing that makes this so ethically difficult is the presence of modern healthcare. Without this, humans suffer terribly. Many of their children die, and people who do die generally will die slowly and in pain, as is the natural way of nature. Abscesses will go untreated, diabetics will die, women in childbirth will have horrendous deaths. The truth is, hunter-gatherers do not have medicines that work, and will usually end up relying on superstition. For example, one group of forest people were struggling over a baby dying of diabetes. They couldn’t work out what was wrong, they had tried every herb, the baby was in pain, and they resorted to their superstitions, pouring acidic poisons onto the baby’s eyes to exorcise bad spirits. Western doctors arrived, and were given the baby immediately by the tribes-members, who diagnosed and healed the infant immediately with insulin, which would then be provided as a lifelong medicine to the baby, with the parents trained in giving the injections. Their gratitude was beyond words. They were utterly desperate for help. They did not know about modern medicine, except for rumours, and the visit was an unexpected encounter with anthropologists.

    In addition to this, we also have human rights issues. Assassination is a common response in hunter-gatherers to rule breaking. Children are also forced into marriages. There are no options in life, no choices for them. Life has only one route: marriage, family and death. This is especially traumatic for homosexuals, who are highly vulnerable to rape and assassination. Homosexuals in uncontacted tribes, and females in forced marriage, have no escape and their trauma is no less real than it would be in any other person. Social pressure is absolute and immense. Individuals are without choice. Contact with the outside world is also an opportunity for escape, even life, for those who need to leave.

    So I am on the side of choice, and on informed choice. Lifeways should be protected and preserved: their lands left untouched. But they have the right to know and to choose for themselves, as individuals, whether they wish to be a hunter-gatherer.

  3. Maciej · · Reply

    This is exactly this missionary attitude that scares me. This arrogance to believe to know that people like Sentinelese need our knowledge, our help, our food, our “healthcare” (antibiotics, oh my goodness), our belief about good and bad, which led us to so many wars, our belief about God, which led us to so many religious wars, that they need “our rights” of our civilization, which is so blessing us and our children with Facebook and iPhone, that they wait for all of this “achievements” of our so swell western “culture”, this arrogance is unbelievable. Or you are just too young. And you yourself are lacking of knowledge. I suppose the second. The Sentinelese made it clear that we should f… off of their territory. So you still do not want to believe?

  4. Hi, maybe I didn’t get the point across so well that such a view of hunter-gatherers (as stone age people), is offensive to me. One point of the article was to explain this as a flaw, and that modern day hunter-gatherers are not a window into the past, but modern people, and one of the vast numbers of cultures that exist on earth at this time.

    I want to also put across the dilemma, because I do fear we romanticise hunter-gatherers, which is again part of that ‘looking into our past’ presumption. They are not in a childhood stage, or an innocence stage and its offensive to think so. Its the West that wants to keep them as they are, believing their lives to be more wondrous and idyllic than their own.

    My point is that their lives should not be imposed on, that their lands should be protected, that a wish to continue traditional lifeways is protected. But also that they have the right to know that antibiotics exist, that insulin exists etc.

    This is why I suggest the use of medical outposts combined with protection of indigenous rights. I think you may have misread my article, or my meaning wasn’t clear.

    I chose the Sentinelese not just because they are the planet’s most uncontacted tribe, but that their neighbours, on Great Andoman Island, the Jarawa, provide an excellent example of a government creating the best balance I am aware of. The Jarawa are forest people who choose to be uncontacted, but who were disturbed, in the early 90s, by the building of a trunk road through their forest. the Indian government reacted promptly, protecting them from further intrusion, and their lifeways are heavily protected. However this is combined with medical and emergency outposts for them. This was a true lifeline recently when they experience severe hunger crisis, choosing to request food at the outpost. They now trade foods at the nearest market while maintaining their secrecy and privacy. So all contact is their decision.

    the West is not ideal. Far from it, we are capitalist cultures and as such our infrastructure can only be based on corruption and greed. But what we do have is medicine, and as I said in the article, it is medicine that makes this an ethical problem, when approaches deny hunter-gatherers any level of choice in their fates. My reply above explains about how distressing life can be without medicine and how welcome it can be.

    Jenny (aged 41 btw and postgrad in palaeo-anthropology/archaeology)

    1. The problem I have with your noble, but I believe misguided intentions is that you seem to assume that we should introduce our culture to theirs because we have better ways of doing things. It assumes we have conquered all the unpleasant things in life within our own modern society. We haven’t; we still kill each other in horrific inhuman and bestial wars, we still murder each other for reasons as simple as the colour of another person’s skin, we still suffer very nasty diseases and frequently die from them still suffering despite modern medicines. We have child abusers, rapists, accidents; we have children dyeing causing heart-breaking suffering to the parents. We have lots of useful goodies most of which can only be manufactured by raping finite minerals from the Earth, transforming them into other things and in so doing pour tons of nasty man-made chemicals back into the environment.
      There are of course huge benefits to us as well from our modern living. But what I am saying is that we are already all the same. Our culture has evolved from our primitive ancestry to give us what we have today, just as theirs has also. They have evolved into different cultures, but within each individuals life we still have the same elements of joy, peace, pain, suffering, love, hate, and all the other things that each of us experience in our brief life on Earth.
      Yes, uncontacted tribes may have lots of ways and means to experience suffering to their lives. But just like us they also laugh, love, respect, tell stories, play games, and have an order to their lives. It is sheer arrogance, and meddlesome interference to assume that what we have is better and that by introducing our life into theirs, it might give them some advantages. It doesn’t, it just exchanges one set of life criteria for another, but the negative is that in so doing it will sew the seed that like a cancer will grow over several generations until the culture they value so much is destroyed.
      ffffrequently die from ffrequently illnesses and frequently die from

  5. If you have concerns about hunter-gatherer rights, and want to help protect the preservation fo their lifeways, I can’t recommend Survival International highly enough. Hunter-gatherers are now rare and are in peril all over the globe, largely from loggers and the palm oil industry, but also from huge corporations that deal in land and minerals. The subject needs all the attention it can get, because people are dying, not just their cultures. Have a look here http://www.survivalinternational.org/

  6. Jenny. Your concerns, now as I know that you are a woman, are understandable. Still you are a young person, but I must apologize for my rude behavior, because I reacted a little bit too emotionally, which is always bad. Imagine I would be one of that Sentinelese so upset about your words, and then I would drag my bow and arrow and shoot you straight on the beach. No, maybe I wouldn’t as I am a man and would try to be a gentleman. Maybe I would just say in my Sentinelese dialect to you: “Oh my Enemy and Wife of my Enemy. I am the man who walks by himself and all places are alike to me. We do not need any presents from you and we can sit on this island without your help and be healthy by eating raw fish and have plenty of means curing our diseases and we do not want your anti-things which is good for your diseases, but we are healthy as the fish around us and when we are sick it is good for us, as this small island will not be overcrowded for always and always and always.” But you would not understand as I would say it in my native language. And when you would try to convince me that I am wrong and throw the anti-things towards me, I would raise my bow eventually to teach you who is right.

    P.S. The meaning of your article was very clear, I understood it perfectly. But still I disagree the same as I would disagree to go to the African bush and try to give the lions and buffaloes some antibiotics or insulin to protect them from any malady and to teach them not to kill each other.

    Cheers
    Maciej

  7. But anyway I enjoyed reading your article and liked to read that “modern day hunter-gatherers have modern day adaptations”. Probably that is true as the evolution must have affected them too. Do we know? Or is this just speculation? I very much believe that the reason for shielding those tribes from modern world is not for their benefit primarily but for ours: to learn from them. Yes, we try to learn from them, how simple life can be or how maybe it was in the stone age. Simple does not mean easy. You are right that some westerners may romanticize such living, but in the science world this must be an old chestnut. Scientists report about child mortality of 50% among those tribes for example. So they do not romanticize at all. But maybe average Joe does. The scientists curiosity is the only power driving them to the lost tribes, not humanity, not charity, as some would like to let us believe. The scientist study them, offering them medicine and “human rights”, but the lost tribes do not want to be dragged into a business like that. And it is clear that any disturbance from the outside world in form of “aid” will destroy their economy and biological balance. If a door-to-door salesman would came around to your door and try to sell you a “new” and “revolutionary” medicine which would be so good to you, and you would ask “Do any of my Brothers took it?” and he would reply “Not yet”, what would you do with the door and the door-to-door salesman? But the salesman is clever. He would go away but return in the night and install a web-cam in your garden. Then he would watch you and wait until you get sick. And when you are sick, he would knock on your door again and say: “I have a revolutionary medicine for you. Do you open the door now?”. And you would answer: “No, go to hell!”. But this salesman is still clever and would be patient and wait and watch you from distance. Big brother is watching you. This is probably the fate of the Sentinelese tribe. It will be watched. The technique is already there. We love our drones.

  8. Thank you for your replies, and calmer discussion 😉

    This is the balance that is difficult, and in no way should any group of hunter-gatherers be imposed upon, or harrassed. In fact, any approach would have to be extremely cautious due to the risk of transmitting any virus to them that their immune systems couldn’t handle. Any approach must not be done for reasons of scientific research, but in the best interest of them as humans.

    A hunter-gatherer and a westerner are no further apart, genetically, than 2 westerners. Evolution only refers to technology, not physiology. Every human being on the planet is extremely tightly related, more so than is seen in any other species, because of a near extinction event in our none too distant pasts, just before fully evolved Homo sapiens left around 70-60,000 years ago. Differences like skin colour, hair colour, height, eye colour, are genetic trivialities.

    So I personally strongly object to hunter-gatherers being seen as ‘stone age people’. They are not like I say, they are 21st century people with a different culture to ourselves, and it is their human right to have their culture protected.

    But like you say, they are also suffering. Homosexuals may be killed, girls are often forced to marry against their will as soon as they have their first menstruation (in one tribe, the Efe, of the Congo, it is believed that sex starts the first period, and the girl, maybe only aged 10 or 11, will be beaten and tortured sometimes for weeks and even months, until she names the man she had sex with. She is then forced to marry, and the husband, an adult male, will be able to have sex with her for the rest of her life, as often as he likes, to this child, who is not allowed to refuse. Its horrific. Boys of her age are forced to endure a torture ceremony that lasts for 6 weeks, in which they spend every moment of their day being starved, burnt, cut, beaten and if they die, tough. No-one cares. An anthropologist did actually rescue one lad of 9 who was beside himself with suffering and near to death. Its very unusual for anthropologists to intervene. The lad was from a different culture, a slave group of the Efe and they had taken him for the torture.)

    Antibiotics have become a problem in the West, in that bacteria are evolving resistance, but to a hunter-gatherer with an agonising necrotising ulcerated abscess that involves an entire foot, or hand, or forearm (gangrene), an antibiotic can see the infection gone in a week and the tissues healing nicely. Gangrene makes for a slow and intensely painful death and without exception hunter-gatherers do want access to antibiotics. Is it right to say no, or hide from them that antibiotics exist?

    My stance is not imposition, but choice. We should not hide what we have in the West for reasons of scientific study, of people who are actually as modern as we are. Like the Jarawa, they should not be imposed upon, but given the choice to access help, if they wish.

    The Sentinelese are different though. They may kill visitors if they wish but may do so out of superstitions (though they did appreciate and welcome a friendly contact made in the 1990s). Their isolation has allowed their survival for many thousands of years, but they are without doubt suffering. We may never be able to inform them on western medicine, because contact could kill them from viruses alone. It may be a lost cause, but we shouldn’t at the same time turn our back on our suffering brothers and sisters, in the name of flawed science. Policy should be driven by humanism alone, but we cannot decide for them what is in a hunter-gatherers best interests. Only they know what is in their best interests. If we make decisions like that, we are going back 150 years to the dark days of Social Darwinism and colonialism. We are not their masters. All humans have to right to know about modern medicines and the opportunity to make their own choice about how they live. Its not really a choice if we are hiding important information from them.

  9. Maciej · · Reply

    You are contradicting yourself. Were you ever before in your life trying to make “contact” with these tribes? I shall think not. Because your words are all full of “we should”, “suffering”, “torture”, “horrific”, “humanism”, “colonialism” and many other “isms”. Your view of these people is very abstract and you are taking away their dignity as human beings if you think that they miss something, that you can help them or that modern medicine can help them. This I call blindness of missionaries. But you are a woman and you think like a woman: you want to help. To help these poor people. Maybe you do not know, but there are some poor men around who do not want to be helped. They want to stay poor. And it is exactly that thinking of those good helping people that is so dangerous. They do not realize that wanting good they do only bad. And they, they are the “lost cause”.

  10. I really don’t believe that men and women are cognitively different, but that is a different subject entirely. Its good that the article has provoked debate. My own view is that we are putting ourselves into the role of missionaries/imperialists whatever ‘we decide for them’. They should have the power of deciding for themselves, and they can’t make those decisions if truths are held from them. These are complex issues and differ for each group of hunter-gatherers. What has worked so well for the Jarawa, may not be workable for the Sentinelese for example. But the west, and science, does need to have these discussions. We can’t blindly carry on treating other cultures as primitive relics to be studied and preserved. Rather than contradict myself I explore the positives and negatives of both perspectives, its my discussion style to not dismiss differing stances but to draw out the positives and negatives from them, and draw out the positives and negatives from my own stances. Then I will weigh up what to me seems to be the best solution.

  11. You make some good points here.

    My point is that we shouldn’t be making any decisions for hunter-gatherer people. I think making decisions about how they should live is morally wrong. They should make their own decisions about their lives.

    To truly make those decisions they need to know the outside world exists and what happens in it.

    This has positives. From awareness of the outside world, tribal leaders now attend conferences on the issues they face, and can represent themselves in courts in cases where they figth for the protection of their land.

    Recently, a group of pacific islanders who’s cultural material (masks, spiritual items etc) had been in the British Museum for 100 years, against their will, came to the UK to fight in court, themselves, for the return of their belongings. The British Museum had always refused and denied.

    Due to their understanding of the outside world, they were able to negotiate our ways and successfully won their belongings back.

    We don’t know what they would choose. They should at the very least know we exist. I think morally they should also know that modern medicine exist.

    I’ve had people reply that modern medicine will harm them, well, if its bad for them lets stop using it ourselves… except we won’t. We enjoy the benefits and they don’t, because much is hidden from them ‘for their own good’ by imperialistic attitudes.

  12. My concern is that we don’t know the long-term consequences of our modern day health care. One thing that life has taught us is that it will evolve, and we are, in essence, interfering with evolution with our modern medicine.

    You would make a much more compelling argument AFTER modern society has solved all of its problems, like poverty and crime. Sadly, these problems can be solved today, but western values of greed and a lust for power block that path.

    And then there’s the long-term consequences of our way of life that we have yet to see. However, we are seeing some of these today, like unhealthy diets, obesity, proliferation of mental health disorders, cancer.

    Leave the uncontested tribes alone. In this “Brave New World,” we very much need a “Reservation” because we simply don’t know what effects modern ways will have on future generations.

    You know the saying, ignorance is bliss. It seems abhorrent to you what they might do to one another, but if it’s all they know, then they adapt, and they have.

    Leave them alone.

  13. I find this a very fascinating and difficult to answer question. I tend to agree that everyone should have access to modern medical care, and in order to have that they must first know about it. The question of course is, can we make such knowledge available without causing harm? Thank you for informing me about the Jarawa. I had never heard of them before.

  14. Thank you everyone for your comments. Its a very difficult issue. My own personal opinion is that suspicions about modern healthcare come from a general distrust of science in some parts of society. The key point is whether illnesses are getting resolved. Where they are, it is very effective, and as a humanist, I would prefer all humans had equal access to treatments.

    With a group like the Sentinelese who aggressively resist contact, it becomes very hard, especially when you do not know why they are resisting contact. Is it because they know about our world and do not want it, or is it because they think we are supernatural beings who could harm them?

    At the same time, are they battling to save the life of a child who is in pain, not knowing a cure is out there and that these outsiders are not supernatural demons?

    I think a middle ground is possible. Their Island can stay untouched and their culture intact, their ways unchanged, while providing access to medicines if they want them.

    1. I agree with author. There is a lot of unrealistic romanticism and sort of this desire to make up for past historical wrongs against indigenous people. The author is being real and most of you sit here lecturing her on morality. And not even listening to what she keeps saying.

      The reality is that if there were humans somehow living in the center of the Earth or another planet with cures for AIDS, cancer, cystic fibrosis, Down Syndrome, or some other medical condition that afflicts people and causes suffering. Every person who has posted here would want to know about it. No exceptions.

      Particularly those that personally suffer from a medical related issue, or have a loved one who suffers from one. Chances are, they’d want to know about tools that might make their lives much easier, too.

      We may want to keep our way of life- then again we may wish to integrate some aspects of theirs.

      Pretty easy for folks to sit on their computers with a refrigerator full of food, air-conditioning keeping them considerable, and medications keeping them alive to decide that these people are better off with a variety of various degrees of suffering that you would never wish to personally endure yourselves.

      The tribes that wish to be left alone, perhaps they should be. On the other hand, it is important to ask why they wish to be left alone. I imagine some of the folks here imagine that they are somehow deciding to reject our capitalist, greedy, modern ways.

      I doubt it, since they know next to nothing about us. So, there is a good chance these tribes react from fear of the unknown, or simple territoriality. If it’s done in a careful, respectful, safe, and controlled manner what harm would communication with them have except to disrupt the romantic ideals you may have.

      Very easy for folks to deny to others what they take for granted. If you were a woman being beaten or raped, or a father whose son died at the age of four (due to an easily avoidable condition) you people would jump off your high horses and pray to the animal spirits to ease your suffering.

      As the blogger has said, they can keep their lands, their lifeway, and we can limit their exposure to problematic elements like alcohol, etc. Drop the selfish sentimentality and actually put yourself in their shoes.. sandals.. well, feet, whatever.

      Great article and you’re right.

      1. Thank you, its a good discussion.

        People almost always want to preserve their culture, and making contact and creating medical outposts does not need to threaten that. The people themselves choose whether they wish to visit the outpost for medicines.

        Though of course, having no immunity against outside viruses is a massive danger. That would be my great concern.

        Comments against modern medicines tend to be somewhat idealistic and naive. I’m sure people in our own culture would not refuses antibiotics if they had agonising gangrene and septicaemia, or if their child did.

        Yet we have the imperialism in us still to decide for other people whether they can have access to antibiotics or not. Or insulin, or pain relief.

        They don’t really live in a garden of eden, but a hell of hardship. But they are free from our capitalist ways too. Its a double sided coin, but creating medical outposts does not mean destroying that freedom. It also provides homosexuals, women and girls with an escape from forced marriage and even death penalities. It gives people an option: to embrace their traditions or to reject them,.

  15. Nils Devynck · · Reply

    I think that the debate above shows why we have banned contact. None can agree on what the best way of handling this is so we don’t make any choices and leave them alone.

  16. ironsky · · Reply

    Why the need to contact these people the outside world offers nothing but pain and disease leave them alone.

  17. ironsky · · Reply

    IM sure the desire to learn about these islanders is a fascinating prospect. Its clear these people don’t want contact with the outside world and have no need for it they survived the 2004 disaster relative unharmed where others did not just proves they don’t need our help and can manage without us.The one reason the give for rejecting contact with outside world goes back to the days of Britain’s empire building days when some sailors hijacked an old woman and four children the old lady died while in captivity of disease the British later sent back the children who possibly were carrying diseases that were passed on to the others who knows. The point is the learned that outsiders carried disease that could harm them hence the hostile attitude towards outsiders and we shouldn’t be forcing our ideas and vaules on to them I remember watching a film some years ago about tribes who have been contacted for most it was a disaster and some even became extinct leave them be.

  18. Anthony · · Reply

    I believe these tribes live both a beautiful and a painful life….much the same as we do. I believe in communication and self determination as a people. Making contact in a respectful, delicate manner is as old as time, no harm there; doing so to offer our “healing potions” to them is a nice little gesture that prolongs their lives and lessens the pain, anything more involved then this is foolish, selfish and highly detrimental to their way of life. This is where I agree with the author.

    Now to trim the fat: trying to impose “human rights” based on a UN document is ridiculous, I honestly howled with laughter. I sure as hell bet you they deal with rape a lot swifter and more justly then we do, but that is a whole other conversation.

    These are TRIBES not massive civilization engaging in genocide. Let’s keep the UN Charter under our hats shall we.

    I love the previous other comments about trying to show a lion not kill and about an alien race presenting us a cure for cancer or aids (what moron would say “no thanks, we’ll work it out eventually”). This topic is complicated, so keep it simple. Offer one single, isolated avenue of communication with these tribes to offer transportable medicines and that’s it. If they want to walk into town for a twinkie and a twerk, let them, otherwise mind your own bloody business 😉

    A side note: God I’m fascinated by the fact that these “uncontacted” tribes have been in existence for 3,000-50,000 years, avoiding such ailments as the black plague, massive slavery, religious blood baths, world wars, holocausts, genocides, and boy bands. Ya, let’s give them more then our medicine. Awesome.

  19. Al Hudson · · Reply

    I consider that we must left them alone. Don’t f. with us, we don’t f with them… that’s it

    Or maybe we can send a couple of ISIS recruiters there… just to keep them ‘connected’ to our civilization.

  20. james goodwin · · Reply

    Without getting political , the uber elite have their ways of “helping” the common people usually for their benefit, with apparent humanistic motives and no thought for collateral effect. People in general have reason for why they are the way they are, and the elite, or, must do good people, give no thought, except to feel good. Please leave them and us alone and take the plank from your eye……

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