In the deep valley of Amazon rainforest, a different world exists. A world far from modern civilisation, where inhabitants live like early humans from the Stone Age. For thousands of years, “the uncontacted”—a name given by the outsiders—have lived in the woods, relying on nature and wildlife for their livelihood. No one knows about their exact population, location, or their culture.
There were rumours about the existence of uncontacted tribesmen, but very few dared to follow the whispers in the treacherous landscape of Amazon, the abode of wild animals. Those who went seldom found any evidence. Until one day, in 2014, the uncontacted Indians made the ‘first contact’ with the outside world that was captured in a film by a local anthropologist from FUNAI, Brazil’s National Indian Foundation.
In broad daylight, a small group of tribesmen emerged on the banks of Envira river near the Simpatia village of the Brazilian state of Acre. Wearing nothing but a waistband that held machetes, and holding bows and arrows, the tribesmen shouted and sang in an unknown language. The sight was frightening for the villagers and experts present there. The ‘first contact’ turned even more frightful when the tribesmen crossed the river and broke into the villager’s houses.
Anthropologist José Carlos Meirelles, who has studied and explored indigenous tribes for four decades, was in Simpatia when the surreal event unfolded. He attempted to communicate with the tribesmen through different local languages. But nothing he said made sense to them, neither did he understand what they were saying. When all attempts failed, the tribesmen snaffled some clothes from the houses and disappeared into the forest they had come from.
It took FUNAI several months to learn their language through the help of linguistics. When they finally made a breakthrough, they learned that the tribesmen were actually crying for help. They were trying to say that drug traffickers in Peruvian Amazon were hunting and killing them, and had already reduced their tribe to half of their strength. Scared for their lives, the tribesmen had no other choice but to leave the woods and seek help from outside. Determined to protect and provide shelter, FUNAI sent a team to locate them. But when the team of anthropologists and doctors found the tribesmen, they were already dying—not due to any bullet wounds but a respiratory disease, which they caught during the first contact. Thanks to the team’s agility, all the tribesmen received timely treatment and were saved.