The people native to North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal who took the life of missionary Jonathan Chau, up until that terrible moment, managed to keep the heat off them, living an existence blissfully separate from the rest of the owned, monopolized you could say, world out there.
Unfortunately that peace is, as you’d expect, being jeopardized every day, when it comes to uncontacted or almost uncontacted native tribes left in the world, from the Americas to that island near India.
Recently, it was reported that a Christian missionary from the US state of Maine, Steve Campbell, illegally went into a region of the Brazilian rain forest occupied by the Hi-Merimã tribe, another one of the last remaining, uncontacted tribal groups in the world.
Brazil’s Indigenous affairs department known as FUNAI is questioning the man, and if he’s found guilty of breaking the law and contacting him he could be in serious trouble.
“If it is established in the investigation that there was an interest in making contact… he could be charged with the crime of genocide by deliberately exposing the safety and life of the Hi-Merimã,” said the general coordinator at FUNAI, Bruno Pereira.
It seems that it is considered extremely dangerous for the tribes to be contacted by people from the outside world because of the potential that they would introduce diseases or environmental factors that could critically change or damage them.
It isn’t known for certain today exactly how many more of the Hi-Merimã people are left, but the 1943 estimate which must be wildly outdated suggested there were up to 1,000 of them still around.
Along the Piranhas River in the state of Amazonas, they have remained for a long time, with very limited contact with outsiders and even tribes in the surrounding areas.
It is theorized that a common cold or the flu could take the lives of an entire tribe, because theoretically they have no immunity to such a thing. However, the health of these people is probably a mystery.
Optimistically speaking, they might have immunity that even surpasses that of ordinary people. That’s also “in theory,” it’s best to be on the safe side and keep that potential far away from these people because the consequences could be unspeakable.
“Even if direct contact has not occurred, the probability of transmission of diseases to the isolated is high,” said a FUNAI spokesperson.
Campbell tried to justify his position and spare himself the tremendous legal punishment he could face, claiming going through the tribe’s area was the only way he could reach his destination, the home of the Jamamadi, a neighboring tribe who he lived with for decades. If he lived with them for decades, that certainly would lend credibility to his story.
Brazil has an estimated 305 uncontacted tribes, and it is being said that they are going to suffer if a power representative named Jair Bolsonaro becomes president.
He allegedly once said “If I become President there will not be a centimeter more of indigenous land,” coldly dismissing all indigenous rights as “nonsense” standing in the way of industry.
In 2015, he said: “The Indians do not speak our language, they do not have money, they do not have culture. They are native peoples. How do they manage to have 13 percent of the national territory?”
Mercury poisoning from petroleum operations in countries like Peru and Ecuador is a serious problem, and hopefully the people will not have to deal with more of that.