From Joshua Hammer at Smithsonian magazine, an update on the so-called “uncontacted” tribes of people living deep in the Amazon rain forest and what’s being done to help them stay isolated.
After two hours, we docked at a pier at the Maloca Barú, a traditional longhouse belonging to the 30,000-strong Ticuna tribe, whose acculturation into the modern world has been fraught with difficulties. A dozen tourists sat on benches, while three elderly Indian women in traditional costume put on a desultory dance. “You have to sell yourself, make an exhibition of yourself. It’s not good,” Matapi muttered. Ticuna vendors beckoned us to tables covered with necklaces and other trinkets. In the 1960s, Colombia began luring the Ticuna from the jungle with schools and health clinics thrown up along the Amazon. But the population proved too large to sustain its subsistence agriculture-based economy, and “it was inevitable that they turned to tourism,” Franco said.
Not all Ticunas have embraced this way of life. In the nearby riverside settlement of Nazareth, the Ticuna voted in 2011 to ban tourism. Leaders cited the garbage left behind, the indignity of having cameras shoved in their faces, the prying questions of outsiders into the most secret aspects of Indian culture and heritage, and the uneven distribution of profits. “What we earn here is very little,” one Ticuna leader in Nazareth told the Agence France-Presse. “Tourists come here, they buy a few things, a few artisanal goods, and they go. It is the travel agencies that make the good money.” Foreigners can visit Nazareth on an invitation-only basis; guards armed with sticks chase away everyone else.