Obsessed men of the Bodi tribe of Ethiopia during the famous Kealle traditional festival
Study has shown that several peoples in different parts of the world still live with limited or no contact with mainstream society. In some literature these groups are regarded as isolated, forgotten, uncontacted or indigenous, as the writer deems fit. Several years ago, the attention of the world was drawn to the existence of a group of indigenous people living in isolation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, removed from any contact with so-called civilization. This was as a result of a picture taken of an indigenous man in a small village in the rainforest, aiming a bow and arrow up at an airplane in which the photographer was flying over the scene. What could possibly be the reason behind this way of life, seeing the advancement in technology, especially in light of the 21st century development? It is remarkable that in the second decade of the 21st century much of the available evidence points to the existence of about 100 isolated tribes living in the world. These tribes have held on to this way of life for different reasons which are generally centered on their quest for survival. The fact that they exist is testimony to their resilience, ingenuity, self-sufficiency and adaptability.
The reason for isolation is unique to each group. Some of them do this in a bid to survive the invasion of their lands by encroaching society and as such they adopt a nomadic way of life, hunting animals and gathering wild foods. Some may even have had contact with colonist or frontier society in the past, and then retreated from the violence, disease and sometimes enslavement which that brought.
Isolated tribes are frequently viewed with a deep-seated discrimination which views them as ‘unrefined,’ ‘backwards,’ ‘primitive’ and ‘savage’. Many a times this bias has been used by governments who contact and integrate them into national society to justify the theft of their land and resources. Irrespective of the vast amount of evidence – including video footage, audio material, photographs, artifacts, testimonies and interviews – that has been collected over the years, some governments even deny the existence of these peoples. Although some campaigns have been and are being made by survival and local organizations to ensure that these peoples are allowed to carry on with their lives as they see best, tour operators still organize ‘human safaris’ where tourists can ogle at them in some areas. An example can be drawn from the Jarawa people on India’s Andaman Islands. This seems fascinating to some who see them as objects of curiosity to be exploited, treating them as ‘relics’ from our distant past.
If not well protected, the disappearance of what is left of the world’s isolated peoples is inevitable. However, this can be avoided if governments and multinationals are pushed to uphold the right of these peoples to self-determination.