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Friday, July 24, 2015

Isolated tribes

Reuters recently ran this article, Peru to make contact with isolated tribe for first time:

Peru will try to make contact for the first time with an Amazonian tribe that largely lives isolated in the jungle, part of a bid to ease tensions with nearby villages after a bow-and-arrow attack in May, authorities said on Tuesday.

Government anthropologists will try to talk with a clan of Mashco Piro Indians to understand why they have been emerging from the forest, said deputy culture minister Patricia Balbuena.

In recent years the Mashco Piro have increasingly been spotted seeking machetes and food outside their jungle enclaves in the Manu National Park in southeastern Peru.

Villagers, Christian proselytizers and tourists have all interacted with the tribe, often giving them clothes and food.

“The only ones who haven’t been in contact with them are representatives of the state!” said Balbuena.

Peru prohibits contact with the Mashco Piro and another dozen “uncontacted” tribes, mainly because their immune systems carry little resistance to common illnesses.

Authorities have said they cannot keep people from defying the contact ban because no penalty is attached….

Luis Felipe Torres, the head of the state isolated tribes team, said the government will not forcibly contact the Mashco Piro or try to change their nomadic lifestyle.

“But we can no longer pretend they aren’t trying to make some sort of contact,” Torres said. “They have a right to that, too...”

It's hard to see an article like this and not feel just a little sad that a way of life is likely coming to an end. In a way, it's reassuring to know that such tribes still exist -- because the Mashco Piro represent real multiculturalism.

(People descended from different tribes who've been living in the same country for hundreds of years do not; all they represent are different gene pools.)

A few Mashco Piro:

There are a few other such isolated tribes, mostly in the Amazon basin. The 35,000 Yanomami who live scattered along the border between Brazil and Venezuela, are probably the most well known. But in recent years they have been studied practically to death, and there is little mystery about their way of life.

On North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean there is a tribe which has lived there, more or less undisturbed, for 60,000 years. They are extremely hostile, and if outsiders approach the island, the Sentinelese fire arrows or throw stones at them. The Indian government has declared it illegal to go within three miles of the island.

Here is one of the few known photographs of the Sentinelese, firing arrows at an approaching helicopter:

The Korowai people, who live in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, were reportedly unaware of the existence of any peoples beside themselves until 1970. They are reportedly the last of the Melanesian tribes to still practice cannibalism, though there is some question as to whether this is true.

A Korowai tribesman:

In a way, such tribes present a moral quandary. It seems wrong not to offer them modern medicine, if not modern technology. But many have little resistance to the diseases that they will be exposed to by outsiders. And we will inevitably have a corrupting influence; once they've been exposed to civilization, they may not want to go back to their previous way of life.

It's a little like feeding the bears at Glacier National Park: it can spoil them, and possibly even kill them.

The other question is, will these tribes be happier after having been exposed to modernity?

In a way, this experiment has already been tried -- throughout all of South America. Do the current Latinos of Amerindian extraction seem grateful to the white man for having brought civilization to their land? Of course, whatever gratitude the Amerindians feel is mixed in with the feeling generated by the white man also having taken their land.

Africa has basically been another such experiment. Since the white man introduced his medicine, technology, agricultural methods, and aid, the sub-Saharan African population has exploded. Are the Africans better off?

Perhaps more to the point, are the Africans' feelings toward the white man who brought modernity primarily those of gratitude? (Admittedly, the white man did not originally go down there with charitable intentions in mind.)

These days, of course, outsiders tend to approach Stone Age peoples thinking less of subjugation, and more of anthropology.

Studying these tribes should, of course, be a priority. We should learn how their societies work, who is in charge, and what sorts of customs they have. It's an invaluable view into our own prehistory.

If we can learn their language, we could even ask these people who are living in a more natural state how they feel about our society. We might ask, how would they feel about having the women go off to hunt for meat while the men gather fruit and tend to the babies?

Or, how do they feel about the modern Western idea that everyone has exactly the same abilities as everyone else and that anyone saying otherwise is evil?

And would they ever consider voluntarily prostrating themselves at the feet of another tribe whom they've successfully raided in the past and proclaiming that other tribe morally superior?

If a neighboring tribe raped their women far more frequently than they raped the neighboring tribe's women, would they refrain from mentioning this for fear of appearing rude?

Would they embrace these modern ideas, or scoff at them? Their answers might prove revealing. After all, one civilization is as good as another.

In any case, there's much to be learned. And if we try change them to our ways too quickly, the world will be a poorer place for it.


Steven said...

wow there were only 1 million SSA, really? and there apparently will be about 4 billion by 2100.

People talk about the evils of colonialism, the murders and the torture (which I don't deny), but what has been the net effect of contact with Europeans? Apparently a 1000 fold increase in population, plus mdoern medicine and technology. Far more briths than murders.

On the other hand, we could have just traded with them instead of conquering and subjugating and exploiting them. That would probably have been the morally better approach.

Here's a video of a tribes first contact with Europeans:

John Craig said...

Steven --
I've heard it was a million. Living in a hunting and gathering culture with no modern medicine, it's hard to grow your population.

No question, the whites didn't first go down there with charitable intentions. But it's not as if the whites invented conquest and warfare, that's been our history since humans evolved from apes. Whites were actually the first to outlaw slavery. it existed in Africa and Asia long after 1865, and according to some reports, still exists in some places.

That's an interesting video, thanks. That French guy was lucky; other isolated tribes have been known to shoot (arrows) first and ask questions later when confronted with outsiders.

Mark Caplan said...

Enjoyed the post but I too wondered about the 1 million figure. In the Atlantic slave trade, about 15 million blacks were captured in just a small area of West Africa and transported to the New World. Millions more Sub-Saharan Africans were captured and sent to other parts of the world.

But I agree that by 2100, swaggering black Africans instead of the the meek shall inherit the Earth. Africans will outnumber all the other races combined. The sun will never set on the African Empire, which will encompass Africa, Europe, and North and South America.

More good news along these lines, white medicine men have recently introduced a vaccine against malaria, which will save tens of millions of precious African lives.

John Craig said...

Mark (and Steven) --
Look as if I'm way off with that number, I'll change the post. Thank you.

I just spent 20 minutes trying to find where I had once heard that number, but couldn't find any reference to the population of sub-Saharan Africa at either the time of the Roman Empire (when whites first ventured down there in numbers) or in the 1500's or 1600's, when whites went down there with conquest in mind. But you're right, on second thought, that number cannot be right.

At the same time, I have to wonder about that 15 million number. At the time of the Civil War, after blacks had been here for roughly 180 years, the entire population of the US was 31 million. I realize the New World encompasses more than the US, but there were never many blacks in much of Latin America. (Mostly they were sent to the Caribbean ad northern and eastern South America.

I recently looked at a world population chart (on an unrelated matter) and saw that at the moment, the population of whites and blacks in the world is roughly equal. But you're right, that is going to change shortly. Whites are in many places not even sustaining their numbers, whereas the sub-Saharan population is exploding.

Mark Caplan said...

UNESCO gives a total of 17 million for the size of the transatlantic slave trade:

That's not counting deaths aboard ship. Brazil imported a lot of slaves. My understanding is that slaves that went to the Caribbean and South America were worked to death and replaced with fresh slaves.

The size of the slave population in the Southern United States in 1860 is stunning. South Carolina was over 59 percent African; Mississippi, 53 percent African. Three other states were 50 percent African (per the 1860 census). No wonder there wasn't a lot of enthusiasm among whites in the Deep South for emancipation.

John Craig said...

Mark --
Wow, I hadn't realized that. I wonder how it is that the relative population of blacks in those states went down, then, because as of ten years or so ago, Mississippi had the highest proportion of blacks, with something like 33%. Was it the diaspora north?

That's very interesting, thanks. Hadn't been aware of those numbers, that's very enlightening. Obviously wherever I heard that one million number from was way off, or it was an estimate of the population at the time the Romans first went down there, or something.

I also hadn't realized that the Brazilian and Caribbean slaves were just worked to death, and replaced with fresh ones. That's pretty terrible. But it makes the US look god by comparison. Yet strangely, you never hear of Brazil's, or Colombia's, or Cuba's, "original sin."

Anonymous said...

I think it is unrealistic that the SSA population will reach 4 billion in 2100. The whole population growth is depending on western technology and civilization. When the west goes down the SSA population growth will reverse.

They won't be able to sustain the technology (a byproduct of western civilization) by themselves. If they win they lose. Unfortunately for us they don't understand this.

It is very similar with the Muslim mass immigration into Europe. They like our technology and our social welfare but they don't understand that it is a byproduct of our christian western society and our gene pool. If they win Europe will turn into a country similar like Jemen. But there won't be any aid from western nations because it was replaced by Arabia.


Anonymous said...

Thank God we don't live in tribes. Walking around unclothed would be unpleasant. Just a thought.


John Craig said...

Sebastian --
I hope you're right. A population of 4 billion in SSA would be an absolute disaster. Actually, a population of 900MM there is already a disaster. They're streaming north, and, as you say, the European welfare system can only support so many people.

And yes, societies are a product of their people. The more SSA's come into Europe, the more European cities will resemble Lagos and Kinshasa and Kampala.

John Craig said...

Birdie --
In the climates most of these tribes live in, walking around clothed might be even more unpleasant.

Mark Caplan said...

I also wondered how and when the black-to-white ratio in the Deep South tilted in favor of the white population. I think you're right that the Great Migration must have done the trick. Amazingly, as recently as 1900, blacks still far outnumbered whites in South Carolina, by 58 percent to 42 percent. Then the tide changed, to the great benefit of Northern industrial centers such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, and St. Louis.

After over a century of living among Yankees, blacks who migrated North can still boast of their Southern accent and Southern cuisine.

Mexico is following the example set by the Deep South: if you treat your "undesirables" badly enough, they will go. In Mexico's case, it's the Great Migration of their Amerindian population.

John Craig said...

Mark --
Today has been a real eye opener for me on the subject of population statistics thank you. The Great Migration makes sense on a couple of levels. First, at the time, there were more jobs available in northern factories. But in the longer term, blacks tend to be better off in majority-white areas. When left to their own devices, they tend to turn urban areas into East St. Louis, or Oakland, or Detroit. (DC would be the same were it not for the incredible amount of federal dollars that flow into the city.) Essentially the same thing is happening in Europe right now, as Sebastian pointed out above.

do you think the Mexican government is actually treating their Amerindian population badly on purpose in order to drive that population north? I'm not sure how they'd do this, given that 90% of Mexicans are either Mestizo or Ameriindian.

Mark Caplan said...

If I were smart, I wouldn't be weighing in on a subject I know so little about. I've never been to Mexico, but my impression is Mexico is set up as a caste system with a white elite at the top. Steve Sailer has written about, for instance, the Mexican Supreme Court, which is whiter than ours.

The Mexican government sometimes goes to war against its indigenous tribes, who frequently protest and stir up civil unrest. The country is quite vibrant, with many regions in which indigenous tribal languages rather than Spanish are mainly spoken. So it seems perfectly reasonable that the white ruling class would purposely engineer an exodus of those perceived troublemakers and unassimilated natives to a country they detest anyway.

John Craig said...

Mark --
"If I were smart, I wouldn't be weighing in on a subject I know so little about." --Ha, ditto for me. I was obviously way off on my statement about the "pre-Columbian" African population.

Yes, it's true, Mexico does have a caste system. And if you look at their Supreme Court, or watch Mexican TV, or look at their national soccer team, you'd think it was a European country. But according to Wikipedia Mexico is only 9% white. And while there are occasional uprisings like those of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, and while the racial caste system is firmly in place, I'm not sure how the Mexican government would persecute 90% of its population to drive them away. I see the Mexicans who emigrate north as being more like the Africans doing the same: they're simply going where the money and welfare are.

Mark Caplan said...

Here's an article from National Public Radio saying that the Mexican government is paying the fees for illegals to fight deportation back to Mexico:

There is big money to be made in human trafficking. There is little doubt the Mexican government gets its piece of the action when migrants pay traffickers to ease their way into the United States. There are probably other ways the Mexican government operates in the shadows to send us their superfluous population.

High Arka said...

Beware the trap of saying that these tribes represent "our past." They're living now--in 2015. They may correlate to "people living without computers" or "people living without large-scale agriculture," but the idea that they compare well to "our past" is flawed.

This idea of "we believed we were the only people who existed" is highly suspect. As regards that, and other claims that these people represent our past, consider the following factors:

1) How well do we know their languages?

2) How much can we trust any given person who is acting in front of researchers eager to hand out chocolate, liquor, and tools in exchange for pleasing information to use in a PhD dissertation or to obtain a U.N. grant?

3) Despite (apparent) geographical isolation, how well do we know what groups of people may have traveled to that area in the past, and been killed or assimilated? What knowledge might those people have brought or caused to be lost?

4) Even if these tribes haven't come into contact with "first world civilization," how unlikely is it that they never noticed that other tribes in the area completely vanished over the past century or so? Did they ever speculate about why that might be?

5) Do these tribes have the abstract reasoning capability and/or the language skills to be able to accurately portray their situations to researchers, even if they are as completely honest and completely innocent as the researchers want to believe?

6) When these tribes hear aircraft passing overhead, see contrails, or see the glint of jet engines through a break in the foliage, how does that affect their worldviews? If they've been observing those phenomenon for the past hundred years--since well before modern anthropological quarantining was established--how have those observations colored the societies that we see now?

7) In that instant of first contact, when the tribes first experience the presence of outsiders, how pristine and untouched does their worldview remain before information is exchanged?

8) Imagine a flying saucer touching down next to a dwelling in rural Arkansas, and questioning the dwelling's occupants about the history of that society's culture and science. How accurate would the answers be?

9) Have two people, from the same general ethnic background, and who have attended the same small town church ever since grade school, ever had fierce disagreements about the nature of the world? Have groups of such people ever had such disagreements? What, then, makes the opinions of any individual(s) selected for study from such a tribe reliable as to the homogeneity of tribal belief?

10) If you're at work trying to get something done, and some patronizing researcher shows up and wants to ask people questions about their feelings about the company's mission statement and the employee's role within the company, who is more likely to be eager to spend time with the researcher to provide information: the more knowledgeable, capable people, or the less knowledgeable, less capable people?


John Craig said...

Mark --
I don't doubt that Mexico in general benefits from the money sent back to relatives in Mexico, and I don't doubt that the Mexican government is aware of this. My only question was whether they actually persecute certain indigenous types with the aim of getting them to emigrate north.

John Craig said...

High Arka --
Everything you say is true. There's no doubt that researchers have a corrupting influence. And there's no doubt that many of the tribespeople themselves will provide unreliable accounts of their own life and their own history. But I wasn't suggesting we take them at their word for everything, a la Margaret Mead. I was talking about just observing their general way of life; how they get food, how the labor is divided up, what their daily habits are, what their mating habits are. (I was thinking more in terms of Jane Goodall-style observation rather than Margaret Mead-style interviewing.) And yes, even with just observation, there will be an undoubtedly corrupting effect just from the mere presence of the outsiders (who, as you rightly point out, will be eager to ingratiate themselves with chocolate and tools). Still, there's something to be gained, even if some of the facts get distorted.