Very few uncontacted tribes remain in the Amazon, and as their rainforest home disappears, encounters with outsiders have increasingly been marked by violence. Journalist and author Scott Wallace chronicles a dangerous expedition to find and protect a tribe known as “The People of the Arrow,” among the last survivors of the ancient cultures that once thrived in the region long before the arrival of Columbus.


  • Scott Wallace Writer and photojournalist, "The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes" (Crown)

Peru Releases Footage of Uncontacted Indigenous Tribe


  • 13:19:42

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIThere are still a few un-contacted tribes in the Amazon who have managed to survive, despite the relentless march of logging and development that they still exist. It's mostly thanks to the work of a man named Sidney Possuelo. Decades ago, he convinced the Brazilian government to stop efforts to forcibly open tribes to contact and assimilate them into outside society. Instead, Possuelo's goal has been to stop the relentless destruction of the indigenous tribes land and lifestyle. But in order to do that, he also had to find out more about where and how they live.

  • 13:20:15

    MR. KOJO NNAMDISeeking out the very tribes, he believes, should be left alone. Our guest today has spent months deep in the Amazonian jungle with this fiery activist dodging jaguars, vampire bats and swarms of ferocious insects. He survived to join us in studio, Scott Wallace is a writer, photographer and broadcast journalist. He's author of the book "Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes." Scott Wallace, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 13:20:44

    MR. SCOTT WALLACEThank you, it's a real pleasure to be here.

  • 13:20:46

    NNAMDIIt's a conversation you can join by calling 800-433-8850. Do you think contact with the outside world is a good or bad thing for isolated tribes, 800-433-8850? Scott Wallace, this started with a phone call for you and an assignment for National Geographic to cover an expedition in search of one of the few tribes still un-contacted by the outside world. Who are The People of the Arrow and why were you trying to locate them?

  • 13:21:16

    WALLACEYeah, so this indeed did involve a call from National Geographic, wondering if I was available to head back to the Amazon where I'd actually just been to profile the man you mentioned Sydney Possuelo who was the founder and, at the time, the head of the Department of Isolated Indians and inside Brazil's Indian Affairs Agency. And as you said, the mission of this department and Possuelo is to identify the lands where the un-contacted tribes still hold forth in order to protect them and their land from outside intruders. Possuelo was just about to leave on an open-ended expedition into the deepest read outs of the Amazon to track one such tribe, The People of the Arrow, in Portuguese, the Flecheiros.

  • 13:22:08

    NNAMDIThere are a number of isolated tribes but it was a surprise even to you apparently that there were still un-contacted tribes in the Amazon.

  • 13:22:15

    WALLACEIt was a surprise to me, indeed. Yeah, and I had been working in the Amazon a fair amount over the years. I've been there a number of times which is one of the reasons why the Geographic asked me to go on this journey. But The People of the Arrow, the Flecheiros, so little is known about this group. No one knows what they actually call themselves. The name, The Arrow People, is because they've earned a reputation for being deft archers willing to defend their territory with showers of deadly arrows. They are known as The Arrow People by other indigenous groups that live in, you know, in proximity to their lands.

  • 13:22:57

    NNAMDILet me get this straight. They are known to defend their territory with deadly arrows.

  • 13:23:02

    WALLACEThat's correct.

  • 13:23:02

    NNAMDIAnd you said yes to the assignment to go looking for them?

  • 13:23:06


  • 13:23:06

    NNAMDIYou set out on the expedition to profile the aforementioned Sydney Possuelo, tell us about him.

  • 13:23:13

    WALLACEWell, he's an amazing character. He's the, you know, the founder of the Department of Isolated Indians. He led Brazil's Indian Affairs Agency in a new direction as you did say. Midway through his career, Possuelo comes out of a 100 year old tradition of scouts who would go deep into the Amazon to make first contact with the so-called wild tribes in order to move them out of the way of the advancing frontier. And largely, this was a humanitarian effort. They would do this, these scouts called Sertanistas, would go deep into the field to make contact in order to save these tribes from...

  • 13:23:56

    NNAMDIBecause they knew what was coming behind them would not be as kindly or as generous.

  • 13:24:01

    WALLACEExactly. And so, about midway through his career, Possuelo came to the conviction that even this kind of contact was negative for the Indians. They would succumb to epidemic diseases that they have no immunity for to begin with and then their lands would be quickly overrun and they would be reduced to ghosts of their former selves. Much reduced numbers, just broken people. And so he led a new policy direction for the Brazilian government to safeguard these last un-contacted tribes and keep their lands free from intruders.

  • 13:24:37

    NNAMDIHe's clearly a fascinating man but it is my understanding, also a fairly prickly one. What is it about him that makes so many people, on the one hand, revere him and, on the other, fear him?

  • 13:24:49

    WALLACEWell, he is a little bit of a difficult man to get along with. He is fiery, tempestuous. He has, like, a real Iberian temperament and kind of unpredictable explosive. And you know, you don't want to get on his wrong side. So, you know frankly, he was great for literature but a little bit difficult to spend three months in the wilderness with.

  • 13:25:12

    NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, we're talking with Scott Wallace. He is a writer, photographer and broadcast journalist. He's the author of "Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes." Do you think contact with the outside world is a good or bad thing for isolated tribes? Call us at 800-433-8850. Send email to, go to our website and make a comment or ask a question at or send us a tweet @kojoshow. Possuelo has been an activist and defender of isolated tribes for decades and perhaps most importantly, he pioneered Brazil's no-contact policy. Tell us about that.

  • 13:25:53

    WALLACESo midway through his career, as I said, he came to this conclusion that contact with the outside world was a negative thing for these tribes. So he pushed the Indian Affairs Agency, FUNAI, to adopt this new position. He had many of the other Sertanistas, these wilderness scouts, who, you know, agents have contact, supported his position. And they lobbied within the, you know, executive branch and got this change of policy.

  • 13:26:30

    WALLACEWhen the policy was adopted, it also meant the creation of this new department that Possuelo became the head of The Department of Isolated Indians, which identifies the lands where these un-contacted groups continue to hold forth and then gets both political and actually physical protection for those lands erecting strategic control points, control posts, that they man in order to keep outsiders from going in.

  • 13:26:58

    NNAMDIWell, I asked you to read from the book for the answer to this question that I'll raise. Possuelo pushed for the creation of the aforementioned Department of Isolated Indians within Brazilian's -- Brazil's National Indian Foundation, known as FUNAI. Isolated Indians, however ,is a legal term in Brazil. If you can read from, I think it's around page 224 of the book, you might be able to help us understand that.

  • 13:27:25

    WALLACEYes. So in Brazil, it's actually a legal definition. It constitutes a legal concept that defines, you know, isolated Indians as those indigenous societies about which little information is available. But the isolation itself is a pretty recent phenomenon born, largely of the violent imposition of, you know, what Possuelo would call The White Intruder. One of the really interesting things in our expedition was the guiding principal of FUNAI and the Department of Isolated Indians is die if you must, but never kill. So if we were going to have a violent -- if there was going to be an encounter in the jungle with The Arrow People, if they fired their arrows on us, the standing orders were we would only fire in the air, never at them. And...

  • 13:28:16

    NNAMDIDie if you will, but never kill.

  • 13:28:18

    WALLACEYeah. Exactly, die if you must, but never kill. But one of Possuelo's calculations, was we would have a large expedition with a number -- with very visible long arms, firearms. And the question arises, well, why would, you know, their just seeing our guns act as a deterrent? Would they know what they are? And so the answer is, yes, they have had -- it's not as though they haven't had any contact whatsoever with the outside world, but it's only been one of flying bullets in one direction and their response with arrows and the other. So this short passage here kind of goes into that.

  • 13:28:59

    WALLACE"By now, indigenous peoples everywhere, even in these deepest jungle redoubts, had received a graduate-level education in the meaning of gunfire. For many tribes, the fact that the white man possessed firearms was of far greater practical significance than the color of his skin. Some indigenous languages even evolved named for whites that had nothing to do with their pale faces, but were rather onomatopoeic renderings that mimicked the crack of a fired gun If the Indians whose vestiges we sought and analyzed were known to us as the Arrow People, then we rightly could have been called the 'People of the Gun.'"

  • 13:29:45

    NNAMDIHence their contact with the outside world, as you pointed out, limited to dodging bullets, so to speak.

  • 13:29:52


  • 13:29:54

    NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. If you'd like to join the conversation, what do you think the U.S. and other countries should be doing to help protect the Rainforest, 800-433-8850. Scott Wallace, how does the government go about protecting the indigenous groups deemed isolated?

  • 13:30:12

    WALLACESo one of the things they do is delineate the frontiers. The scouts will go in, like on the expedition that I joined, to go in under the jungle canopy and try to ascertain the dimensions of the territory that a particular tribe uses. That's why we were on this expedition because you can't glean that information just from aerial surveillance which may reveal clearings in the forest, breaks in the forest canopy. But that will not show you the dimensions of the territory, what the, you know, what the tribe uses in their annual wanderings.

  • 13:30:53

    WALLACESo the department goes in to figure that out by looking at vestiges. The forest peoples leave clues that they have been there and we are looking at those clues and making notations and noting the locations of those clues. And then that territory will be determined and then actually delineated by the Brazilian government. And any intruders will be thrown out and the idea is to try to keep them out after that.

  • 13:31:23

    NNAMDIIt's a word used in Brazil and other places, but as you know, many people take issue with the use of the term Indian, including here in the U.S. where Native American is more frequently used. What is your own feeling about it?

  • 13:31:36

    WALLACEYou know, I understand that some people may find it a little bit offensive, but it is the term that the Brazilian government and, you know, all the indigenous rights activists in Brazil use. Their department is called the Department of Isolated Indians. The legal concept is Brazil is Indios Islatos, the Isolated Indians. And so, you know, with all due respect to Native Americans, you know, for me, I think it's a legitimate term, I believe.

  • 13:32:12

    NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is Robert in Montgomery County, Md. Robert, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:32:18

    ROBERTWell, I thought your guest might find it of interest what happened to my wife and myself on a stay at a bird watching and nature lodge deep in the Amazonia area of Ecuador. And we had, as a guide, a native who told us, and we learned this was accurate, that his grandparents had grown up in what, at the time, was a totally undiscovered tribe. They had no contact with civilization until well into their adult life and that was the environment that he grew up in.

  • 13:33:02

    ROBERTAnd when we knew him, he took us into the jungle accompanied by a computer, a laser pointer and he had been a contributor to a book on ornithology and all of this within three generations. And I can't comment on, you know, the risks that the tribe took when it was discovered or what happened to all of the people in the tribe but apparently his family survived, if you would, and was still living in a relatively remote part of Peru.

  • 13:33:41

    ROBERTBut I always thought it absolutely extraordinary in demonstrating the commonality of humanity that within three generations you can go from no contact with civilization whatsoever to being as sophisticated an individual as this person was in the use of modern technology and contributing to modern knowledge.

  • 13:34:08

    NNAMDIThat may be amazing but it is also my understanding, Scott Wallace, that the initial contact with what is described as civilization can be quite devastating.

  • 13:34:18

    WALLACEIt can. And thank you very much to the caller for that observation. Yeah, you're probably talking about Huaorani Indians in Ecuador. And there are actually still groups of two tribes in Ecuador that did not accept contact. I'm quite sure that the group the caller's talking about were contacted by American missionaries in the 1950s. And in fact, a number of the missionaries were killed trying to make those contacts. And we don't know how many Indians died as a result of those contacts either.

  • 13:34:55

    WALLACEBut, you know, you're not going to roll back the clock on something that's happened like that. And it's great to hear stories like that. And there are indeed, you know, tribes in the Amazon today who are learning quite well -- thank you very much, they are learning how to use our technology to defend their lands and to -- and their rights. And, you know, all power to them.

  • 13:35:24

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Robert. You, too, can call us at 800-433-8850. We're talking with Scott Wallace. He's a writer, photographer and broadcast journalist and the author of "Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes." Scott, could you set the scene for us, if you would, the start of your expedition through the Javari Valley? Can you read from the beginning of Chapter 4?

  • 13:35:47

    WALLACEYes. We're going up a very twisty, windy river called the Itaquai on our way into the very depths of this huge wilderness area. The sun seemed to shift in the sky as we followed the river's sinuous switchbacks. At times it was directly in front of us, at others nearly straight behind us. And then there were moments cool and merciful when it hid behind a screen of dull silver clouds. I ducked behind the windshield to unfurl a country map of Brazil and saw that we were traveling south by southwest along a squiggly line that barely provided a hint of the river's true course.

  • 13:36:29

    WALLACEWe pitched east, then due west, then back east again. The only constant was the Itaquai's relentless current throwing itself against the Yamaha's 85 horses threatening to sweep us back down river. In most other countries on the planet the Itaquai would've been considered a waterway of significance on the order of the Thames, the Tiber or the Rappahannock. On my map of Brazil it did not even merit a name.

  • 13:37:00

    NNAMDIWell, I can tell you about rivers like that because I'm from that part of the world, Guyana, right next door to Brazil, which is a country of rivers. And you're right, the rivers of that size don't necessarily merit a name on the map at all because they're considered not that large in that situation.

  • 13:37:14

    WALLACEThat's right, and there's so many thousands of tributaries there.

  • 13:37:18

    NNAMDIA jungle expedition sounds adventurous, almost romantic, but you also dealt with ferocious insects, daily downpours and, as we mentioned, close encounters with a jaguar and we're not talking about the car -- what's the reality of three months in the rainforest?

  • 13:37:34

    WALLACEWell, you quickly learn that, you know, that our species, the humankind is not necessarily the apex predator in the food chain. There are jaguars we saw. You know, they were tracking us. There were fresh tracks in many places that we went, and anacondas and other creatures. You know, swimming with piranhas in the rivers...

  • 13:38:08

    NNAMDIIf you could be swimming with piranhas in the river...

  • 13:38:09

    WALLACE... piranhas and skates -- I'm thinking of skates -- stingrays.

  • 13:38:12 don't want to even get cut and...

  • 13:38:15

    WALLACEYeah, that's the thing, you know, I learned about the piranhas, that it's actually not dangerous in running water -- in swift-moving water as long as you don't have a wound.

  • 13:38:23


  • 13:38:23

    NNAMDIBut in still water that's when they get dangerous.

  • 13:38:26

    WALLACEAnd if you get a wound, that's when they're coming. On to the telephones, here is Jessica in Washington, D.C. Jessica, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:38:35

    JESSICAYes, well, thank you for taking my call. And it's been so interesting to hear about your experiences. I'm an anthropologist and economist and work at the InterAmerican Development Bank. And some of the work that we do is (word?) grants and concessional financing to build capacity and indigenous groups (unintelligible) set up sustainable forestry or other types of productive enterprises whereby they would be financially independent and have a sustainable flow of income. But also be contributing to the value of the natural assets in that area.

  • 13:39:12

    JESSICAWhat is your view on that? You know, if there is going to be contacts what is your view on, you know, providing assistance to set up those sort of activities? And thanks for the opportunity to ask the question.

  • 13:39:22

    NNAMDIYou're welcome.

  • 13:39:23

    WALLACEWell, yeah, I think that's, you know, very important to mention to developing the rainforest without destroying it. I would say if, you know, if there's going to be contact. But in fact, these tribes are actually doing very sustainable, you know, living a very sustainable lifestyle without contact with us, so that that would probably be, and certainly in Sydney Posseuelo's view, the most desirable thing is for them to continue living in isolation independently from us and our money, economy and industrial goods, but certainly sustainable development and alternative projects are extremely important, and finding ways to use the rain forest and find value in the rain forest without destroying is crucial the future of the Amazon, and I think to our planet.

  • 13:40:23

    NNAMDIJessica, thank you very much or your call. We've got to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Scott Wallace. He's a writer, photographer and broadcast journalist. The author of "Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes." If you have questions or comments, how much do you think our consumption habits contribute to the destruction of the rain forest? You can call us at 800-433-8550 or send email to I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:42:42

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation with Scott Wallace. He is author of the book "Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes." He's a writer, photographer and broadcast journalist. You describe the protection of isolated tribes as the defense of their human rights. Do most Brazilians see these communities as the rightful dwellers on that land?

  • 13:43:04

    WALLACEI would say that they probably do not. Today, in fact, the Brazilian Congress has voted to modify the Forest Code in the Amazon which could have profound effects on the indigenous peoples there, and on the rain forest itself, rolling back some of the provisions of the Forest Code, which will grant an amnesty to thousands of settlers and farmers who have illegally cleared land in the Amazon over the past several years. But generally speaking, especially in some of these frontier areas where you have people hungry for work and bosses hungry for profits, they are very eager to get at these lands, and as far as they're concerned, the Indians are, you know, an impediment to development. That's how they see them.

  • 13:43:59

    NNAMDIOnto the telephones, again. Here is Tony in Washington D.C. Tony, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:44:06

    TONYYeah, hi. I just wanted to ask a quick question about sort of the paternalistic approach that a lot of people, including some of your callers have been taking about bringing, quote/unquote, "civilization" to these tribes and being awed and impressed by their ability to conquer quote unquote "modern technology." Where I think, you know, we seem to forget that these tribes in a lot of cases have survived successfully and sustainably in a very harsh environment for thousands of years, and the working assumption seems to be that our way is the better way. And I'll take your call...

  • 13:44:40

    NNAMDIThat's what Possuelo seems to have spent his life fighting against, Scott Wallace.

  • 13:44:44

    WALLACEVery much so. I mean, you know, the fact of the matter is, these tribes in the Amazon have evolved a way of life over thousands of years, which is perfectly suited to this very harsh environment. There is a genius in the way that they have adapted to, you know, their survival skills and their ability to flourish in this harsh environment. They have figured out a way to use the forest sustainably and live in it without destroying it, which is something that we don't know how to do.

  • 13:45:19

    NNAMDIAt one point, a village elder we meet in this book says, quoting here, "Leave them alone. Leave that tribe alone. They don't need anything from FUNAI, otherwise they'll be asking for everything." How much of a double-edged sword is help from the government?

  • 13:45:36

    WALLACEWell, it is very much a double-edged sword, and one of the reasons that Possuelo wants to keep these tribes isolated from the outside world is that as soon as contact takes place, you introduce a whole host of competing values and objects and needs, so that within a short time, they suddenly -- first of all it begins with medicine because they are stricken with illness right away after contact with us. They need medicines that they never needed before, and then it's, you know, they forget how to use the bow and arrow and they need rifles, and they need shotgun shells, and they need -- they forget how to use -- how to light fires traditionally and they need lighters, and it doesn't end.

  • 13:46:24

    WALLACEIt just, you know, the needs accumulate. So, you know, it's better, in Possuelo's view at least, to keep them just the way they are living an isolated existence.

  • 13:46:39

    NNAMDII'm going to ask you to read more from the book pretty shortly about one of your near encounters, but as you get ready to do that, let's go to Gary in Sterling, Va. Gary, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:46:51

    GARYThank you. I think if they get the Pan American Highway completed through the Republic of Panama, through the Darien Province, they're going to destroy a lot of cultures, you know, of people who have had no contact, you know. They're not familiar with cars or things like that. That's what I'd like to say. And when they get that canal widened, the Chinese, when they get that done, boy, you're gonna see some mountain topper movement like you ain't ever seen. Those are the two things that I…

  • 13:47:29

    NNAMDIScott Wallace, care to comment on Gary's observations?

  • 13:47:33

    WALLACEWell, you know, it doesn't require the highway going through the Darien Gap in Panama, but you're right, you know, the thrust of what the caller is saying is that, you know, the urge to open up the Amazon and the planet's last surviving pristine wilderness area seems to be almost inexorable, and so we have, you know, we're looking at road construction, damn construction in Peru, in Brazil, in all these countries, and one of the really bright spots actually, that I'd just like to mention is the government of Columbia recently, at the end of last year in December, the new President of Columbia issued a decree that guarantees the last isolated tribes in Columbia the right to the land that they live on, and the right to remain isolated if they so choose.

  • 13:48:30

    WALLACEVery progressive situation developing in Columbia where it was recently discovered that there are indeed uncontacted tribes in the area near the Peruvian Brazilian borders.

  • 13:48:45

    NNAMDIAs we said, the goal of this expedition, and thank you for your call, Gary, the goal of this expedition was to locate the tribe known as the People of the Arrow. Can you read a little bit from one of the near encounters, I think on page 243.

  • 13:48:59

    WALLACEYes. So what unfolds here is we had a brush with the Arrow people, and a couple of them were seen dashing across a makeshift log foot bridge and disappearing into the jungle on the far side of the river. And so right at that point Possuelo ordered us to string up some cooking pots to leave as a gift, and then just to show our peaceful intentions, and then he wanted us to get moving in a hurry. So he orders the gifts to be strung up, and then we dashed through the jungle, kind of double-timing it, until we got to, you know, a place where he stopped to rest, and he said there that he was -- it reads, "He was certain the two Indians who had crossed the bridged were shadowing us from the far side of the river following our every move.

  • 13:49:56

    WALLACEThey would soon head for their village, he was sure, to report every detail of what they'd seen. Listen up, he shouted for all to hear. Everyone down to the beach on the double, and bring your rifles. Gaunt as scarecrows in our tattered fatigues, we stumbled out of the woods, the expeditionaries lugging their rifles. Spread out down the beach, commanded Possuelo. Let them see that we are many. We staggered along the shoreline, feet slipping in the loose sand. We turned to face the towering wall of trees on the opposite bank, no more than a hundred feet away.

  • 13:50:34

    WALLACEStand up straight, look strong, hold the guns up high, Possuelo ordered. Let them see how well armed we are. Rifles came up off hips and shoulders tilting toward the manila tufts of evening clouds that drifted overhead. Of course, Possuelo had no intention to turn our rifles on the Arrow people. He'd have sooner died than fire upon them, but he needed them to think that we might. It was an odd combination, gifts on the one hand, guns on the other, the carrot and the stick. We stared across the river into the trees beyond the far bank. We saw nothing but the high wall of jungle, though we could feel their eyes upon us. All that we could hear was the incessant flow of the water and the rush of blood pounding in our ears."

  • 13:51:24

    NNAMDIScott Wallace reading from the "Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes." Your expedition was seeking the Arrow people, but the goal was not contact. What were you trying to do?

  • 13:51:39

    WALLACESo we were trying to determine the extent of their seasonal wanderings in order to bolster protection for that land. So as we moved through this -- where we ended up, our expedition went up one river, and then we left the boats behind and began this grueling over land trek through the land of the Arrow People, which is actually an area where four separate river systems are born, and so we were crossing very hilly, rugged terrain, the divide between four separate rivers, and as we went through this land we would see abandoned fishing camps.

  • 13:52:19

    WALLACEWe would find discarded objects and making notes of all these things we were determining the extent of which they would wander during the seasonal dry season.

  • 13:52:34

    NNAMDIIn some cases, tribes are able to maintain their isolation after contact. Tell us about the Zo'e, I think it's called.

  • 13:52:41

    WALLACEOh, the Zo'e, yeah. In the Eastern Amazon, there's a group originally contacted by U.S. missionaries, the New Tribes Mission, a group called the Zo'e and they live in a deep jungle area, that still is far from the frontier. There is an air strip in their village which allows for contact, people from outside to go in and out. Possuelo actually expelled the missionaries. It is now under the tutelage of the Department of Isolated Indians, and FUNAI keeps very close control over who goes into see the Zo'e and how many of their members go out and how often.

  • 13:53:21

    WALLACESo it's kind of a laboratory, an experiment, and so far it's quite interesting. I haven't been there myself, but they have been shielded from a lot of the devastating impacts that you normally have with contact when the frontier overwhelms indigenous territory.

  • 13:53:39

    NNAMDIHere's Robert in Arlington, Va. Robert, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:53:44

    ROBERTThank you, Kojo. I was wondering if Mr. Wallace could specify a little bit further the location of the Arrow people within the vast Amazon basin? I've been twice a tourist to the general area, but no further west or north than the Anavilhanas Archipelago in the Negro River.

  • 13:54:06

    WALLACEOkay. Yes. So actually, if you get my book, there's really a lovely map in the opening pages of it, but the Javari Valley that we were in is in the far western corner of Brazil close on the border with Peru. It is in the state of Amazonas, but in the far western region. The Javari is -- yeah. It's kind of where Brazil bulges out in the west, and we were navigating on boat and then by foot an area between two rivers, the Itaquai is the river that we went up, and the Jutai is the river that we went out by canoe, by the way, to get out of there.

  • 13:54:49

    WALLACEOur men built two enormous dugout canoes in the middle of the wilderness with only hand tools and that was our ticket out of the jungle. But that's we were, quite a ways from the Rio Negro.

  • 13:55:01

    NNAMDIRobert, thank you for your call. On to Tom in Arlington, Va. Tom, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi Tom, are you there? Tom seems to have stepped away -- Tom. I hear something in the background.

  • 13:55:15

    TOMYes. Hi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call.

  • 13:55:17

    NNAMDIYou're welcome.

  • 13:55:19

    TOMVery interesting topic. I work with American Indian tribes and so it's really interesting to hear about the uncontacted tribes in South America since, you know, we don't have any un-contacted Indians here in North America. But you touched upon one of my pet peeves, which earlier you were discussing the term Indian versus native.

  • 13:55:41


  • 13:55:41

    TOMAnd I just wanted to say, with all the Indians I've ever worked with, I have never met a single Indian who was offended by the term Indian. The term Native American is perfectly acceptable as well, but it seems to be something that other people have come up with, and Indians don't seem bothered by it, and again, it's just one of my pet peeves when people correct you when you say Indian or American Indian.

  • 13:56:06

    NNAMDITell that to the founders of the American Indian Movement.

  • 13:56:09

    WALLACEYeah, there you go. Some people seem to prefer Amerindian, you know, but I don't know. I tend to try to avoid getting hung up on these semantic terms, especially when you're writing a book that's like 400-and-some-odd-pages long. It'd be difficult to avoid the term and always use, you know, the politically correct terminology.

  • 13:56:28

    NNAMDITom, thank you very much for your call. Some tribes seem to be able to be connected to the larger society, but in a limited way. That would include the Canamari. How has contact changed the way they live?

  • 13:56:39

    WALLACEHmm. Well, you know, the Canamari, actually there were six of them on our journey, and we encountered several of their villages on our way up the Itaquai River, and then coming out down the Jutai in the canoes that I mentioned. And, you know, the Canamari are in a position where they, you know, they've forgotten a lot of their old ways, and yet are -- haven't really been accepted as full-fledged members of Brazilian society, which is one of the reasons why Possuelo came to this position of no contact as well.

  • 13:57:13

    WALLACEEven though the initial, you know, when the Indian Protection Service in Brazil, which is FUNAI's forerunner, was created a hundred years ago, the idea was that, you know, after contact, Indians would be provided with all the benefits and privileges of, you know, full-fledged members in the national society. That never happened, and you can see it with not only the Canamari, but, you know, dozens of other groups that have basically been neglected by the national government and are living on the very margins of society in dire poverty, with illness, no public services, and are in pretty dire shape frankly.

  • 13:57:56

    NNAMDIScott Wallace is a writer, photographer and broadcast journalist. He's the author of "Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes." Scott Wallace, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 13:58:07

    WALLACEThank you very much. It's been a real pleasure.

  • 13:58:09

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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