Changing Planet

Peru Releases Dramatic Footage of Uncontacted Indians

The Peruvian government has released dramatic new footage showing a near-encounter with a group of uncontacted Indians along a riverbank in the Amazon rain forest. The video was taken by travelers on the Manu River in southeastern Peru in recent months, according to officials from Peru’s Ministry of the Environment, who released the images on Monday.

In the video, travelers appear to be playing a game of cat and mouse with the naked tribesmen, drifting close to shore only to flee in panic in their motorboat as the natives approach. Some of the Indians brandish bows and arrows, and at one moment, one of them prepares to launch an arrow at the boat. The travelers are heard debating among themselves whether to approach, whether to back off, and if they should leave gifts of food or clothing on the shore for the Indians to take.

Officials said there have been multiple sightings in recent months of nomadic bands of Mashco-Piro Indians in the area of Manu National Park. Isolated Indians are known to travel extensively by foot during the dry season, now at its height, appearing along the riverbanks as they search for turtle eggs buried in nests along the sandy beaches of the western Amazon. But mounting pressure from logging crews, wildcat gold prospectors, and seismic teams exploring for oil and gas are flushing isolated indigenous out of the forests as well, according to Roger Rumrill, a special advisor to the Environment Ministry. “There is very strong pressure on their territories,” Rumrill said.

Brazilian explorer Sydney Possuelo on a mission to protect uncontacted tribes near the border of Peru, 2002. Photo by Scott Wallace


The video and other accounts of recent sightings and near-encounters prompted officials to issue a stern warning to those traveling along the rivers and backwoods of the Amazon to avoid forcing contact with isolated groups, for the safety of all involved. Travelers were also urged to refrain from leaving behind gifts of food or clothing, which could transmit devastating illnesses to immunologically defenseless isolated Indians.

In releasing the video on Monday, Peruvian officials noted a sharp turn in national policy toward the estimated 4,000-5,000 indigenous people living in near-complete isolation from the outside world, promising to adopt a series of measures aimed at bolstering protection for isolated indigenous tribes and those in the initial stages of contact. The previous government, led by ex-president Alan Garcia, had auctioned off vast tracts of the Amazon to oil and logging concessions. Elected with the broad support of Peru’s indigenous population earlier this year, the government of president Ollanta Humala is moving quickly to distance itself from the policies of its predecessor.

“The policy of this government is one of permanent  inclusion of indigenous peoples, of commitment to their social demands, including territorial demands, education, and health care,” Rumrill said. “It’s diametrically opposed to the previous government.” Those words mark a dramatic departure from the Garcia administration, whose officials denied the very existence of uncontacted nomads in the pristine rainforest regions opened up to development in the past few years. One state oil executive famously likened the elusive natives to the Loch Ness monster, claiming them to be a phantom concocted by environmentalists to hold back development.

Indigenous scout in the Peru-Brazil border region, home to the largest concentration of uncontacted tribes in the world. Photo by Scott Wallace


Carlos Soria, the newly appointed secretary general of the National Service for Protected Natural Areas (SERNANP), the agency with jurisdiction over Peru’s national parks, said the government was in the process of updating protocols and recommendations for how best to deal with unexpected contingencies arising from contact with isolated indigenous populations. All new policy decisions would be guided regarding the isolated tribes, said Soria, by a commitment to better environmental management, a respect for human rights, and a “fulfillment of our obligations to our indigenous populations.”

Scott Wallace writes about the environment and indigenous affairs for National Geographic and other publications. He is the author of The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes, on sale now. For more information, please visit

Scott Wallace writes about the environment and indigenous affairs for National Geographic and other publications. He is the author of The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes (Crown, 2011). For more information about the book and his work, please visit
  • Phil

    Unbelievable in this day and age you called these people ‘Indians.’

  • Bloodwashd

    And HE will be heard of in ALL the earth 7th
    How very cool! I love this amazing world. Thanks for sharing with us!

  • Cynthia Jones


  • JJ

    Native South Americans, rather then?

  • Mohamed

    First of all, they are not ‘Indians’. Its a mistake made by the Europeans when they arrived Americas because they thought they arrived India. Its silly that the name is continued to be used, because these tribes never called them Indians.

  • Juan

    I agree with phil of course. But i would also like to add that the level of ignorance, unpreparedness and simply uneducated manner in which these ministry “officials” act and speak in this video is shocking. Its not the 1800s any more.

  • Brian

    I had to send this link to the cultural anthropology professor I have this term.

    Some cultures are so lucky they haven’t been inundated with “modern conveniences” and still live in the Old World ways.

  • Kevin

    Phil, ‘Indian’ is the name that Indians themselves constantly are reminding us that they prefer. ‘American’ is a word named after a European explorer and is seen as an insult by many of them. ‘Indian’, on the other hand, is used in the geographically correct sense, to refer to the inhabitants of the region known as “the Indies.” ‘The Indies’ is a European term that has always meant the lands beyond the Indus River. The idea that English-speaking citizens of Bharat have gotten into their head, that the term should apply exclusively to them, is an artifact of British colonialism, in which the people of Bharat adopted the British’s own self-centered use of the term to apply only to the part of the Indies that they controlled. The world is round, and you can reach the West Indies from Europe by travelling east beyond the Indus River, so there has never been anything wrong with that name.
    This tendency to ignore a group’s own preferred name for themselves and insist on a different name, is a favorite game of intellectuals. They like to redefine common words as ethnic slurs and replace them with ones that have their approval. This way, they make themselves appear morally superior to the masses, who they think they are defending civilization against. This same word game is seen in you own country of Canada, Phil, where the authorities insist that ‘Inuit’ is the correct name for Eskimos and ‘Eskimo’ is an insult, even though both those points are wrong. ‘Inuit’ is a name for a sub-group of Eskimos, and calling all Eskimos “Inuit” is like calling all Canadians “Victorians.” Another example is the use of the term ‘Bushmen’ is South Africa, which is derrogated by the Intelligentsia but continues to be the preferred term used by the Bushmen themselves.
    So there is nothing unbelievable that in this day and age these people are called ‘Indians.’ It is the name used by people who care about the feelings of the people they are talking about more than playing the game of who can use the latest fashion-word to determine who is the coolest member of the literati.

  • […] Peruvian government released video footage of an encounter with an isolated Amazonian tribe that approached travelers with bows and arrows on the shore of the Manu […]

  • New Tribes Mission

    Uncontacted people groups are highly-intelligent human beings who need to be treated with respect.

  • Sam

    I agree. They are not classed as Indians. It’s like ‘Gypsies’, which is incorrect, as people originally thought they were Egyptian, and was used in a derogatory term.

  • Nathan

    Unbelievable, is how over-sensitive Phil is.

  • everardocaso lopez


  • mamags123

    I just hope the white man can leave these people alone. , why try and bring them into our so called world full of greed and disease. Thier world is perfect. plus they have thier own name, and I bet it;s not Indian.

  • Rita

    They ARE” Indians,” as us North Americans call them, Phil – all South American indigenous people are descended from Western Asiatic peoples that originally crossed the Bering Strait prior to 12,000 years ago. Those that stayed in North America were given the name “Indians” by white explorers (that’s a whole ‘nother story), because the explorers first thought they had reached India on their quest for a easterly sea route to Asia/India.

  • allison

    these tribes people should definitely be left in their natural
    environment without interference.

  • Sarah

    There’s many worse terms to call a person rather than “Indian” so calm down.

  • Dan

    they are Indians to western world, get it straight that was the first name given. Intelligent people like you try to give them new names. The best comment is what Brazilian explorer says, by contact with us

  • […] Peru Releases Dramatic Footage of Uncontacted Indians National Geographic 2011-10-20 17:16 Ratings: 9.5/10 The Peruvian government has released dramatic new footage showing a near-encounter with a group of uncontacted Indians along a riverbank in the Amazon rain forest.… […]

  • Xandra

    Those people has to be protected.
    So many cultures had been lost already. And why?
    I think big companies can give reply.

  • c’mon

    Phil > They don’t mind. They simply mean Native to a particular territory; not transient or migratory.

  • Harriette

    Please just leave this tribe alone. They need nothing from out so called civilization. Just let them live their lives as they have generations.

  • Melissa

    Does it really matter – who calls who what??? I’m an Aussie, I’m a White fella, my family tree can be traced into so many european countries, it is ridiculous! Offence to a “name of indication” does not label you as anything in my opinion – you are who you are (someone who is equal to everyone else – regardless of skin colour or location)
    Now the story – Let them live the way they want, have we not destroyed enough already!

  • Maria Sigouin

    Phil, it is completely acceptable to refer to the nomads as Indians. I am half Blackfoot (Sikh-Sikh tribe), and have many Native friends/family. We are fine with the word Indian. Not long ago it seemed taboo to use that term, but it is widely acceptable in this day and age.

  • Vinod Gangadharan

    It is a happy thing indeed that there are such tribes in isolation from the rest of us. They seem to be God’s own children.So for God’s sake lets leave them alone!

  • Deborah Baine

    These Indiginous Tribespeople (if that is the correct term!) should be left well alone to live as they always have. But the world is getting smaller and they will come into contact with ‘civilization’ some time soon. And it will be devastating for them. I only hope they survive.

  • Arend

    Don’t control them or tell them what to do if its still in positive way and for a good sake. Just be natural and let them be free man, don’t strangle them.

  • Nicolene

    Why are so many of you making this article again about race and going on about it – all over the world people are so sensitive about this – the article is so much more than what to call them – for me the article is amazing in terms of the fact that these people only know how to survive by what they were taught by their grand parent – how many of us can survive like them. For me it is amazing that they are unpoluted by western ways and it is important that they are not contacted due to the fact that they will get very sick from all the viruses we already are immune against!

  • Wanda Galazka

    We must not interfere, leave these people alone, they don’t need our civilization.

  • Shannon

    I just have to say that this is absolutely amazing, to know that there are many more unknown tribes in the world is in itself an astonishing and amazing feeling. These people have lived the way they are used to for as long as they have lived and they have every right to be afraid or show negativity towards new comers. These people should be left alone and allowed to continue with their day to lives alone and separate from the rest of the world and technology. They have survived just fine for many decades and it is not right now for others to step in and try and change it. Let us all take a look into the past and recall what happened when outsiders decided what was right for others of unknown civilization…nothing but harm, disease, and cruel behavior. Let them be, and thank you for the release of the video to open some eyes to the fact that much of our known world in still unknown.

  • Tela

    Change is going to happen regardless. Civilizations sprung from hunter gatherer societies who in turn developed technological skills which in turn helped them to defeat other hunter gatherer societies. It’s like we’re trying to feel good about ourselves and pat ourselves on the back by leaving a certain type of peoples in the Neolithic Age. Don’t they deserve to have their children go to school, good healthcare or even to know that they’re not alone in the world? Instead of being left in isolation so they can worship the biggest tree in the forest and ultimately die from malaria? We watch one episode of Star Trek and suddenly we feel the need to follow some Prime Directive.

  • optimus_cream

    It clearly shows that our Jungle in our Beloved Planet Earth, become thinner and thinner … SAVE THE FOREST

  • Tasha

    How is attracting more attention by reporting information, pictures, and their whereabouts going to protect the tribes from outside contact? Oi. Leave them alone!

  • Joanne

    I figure that the quotes at the last of the article (by the government involved) pretty much echo the same thing the US Government officials of the 18th and 19th centuries were so fond of saying (and then reneging on). Echhhhh.

  • Robert

    How can they be protected from being snatched and used as labor by encroaching projects…Or even just contacted and thus accidentally made sick?

  • Megan

    Indians.. really? More like Nomadic, Peruvian or Indigenous. I don’t have too much to say after ready the article and comments except.. Leave them be.. shooting arrows at a boat, is probably a sign that they want to be left alone.

  • Robert

    Unfortunately, I guess we will some day make contact with them. I hope when that day comes that we can quickly learn as much as possible of their ways, of their values, of their culture, their medicine, and how they achieve their balance in life. I think we have more to learn than we have of value to teach. I suspect they have achieved a better balance with their environment than we have with ours.

  • Nimrod L. Delante

    For now, our civilisation may not interfere with this tribal people’s affairs. Inasmuch as we want to preserve them and their own race, we can’t deny the fact that technology and science had been so strong and insiduous that they continue to affect anyone and anything in this world. Time will come that these uncontacted people need to be in contact with the outside world for them to survive. Man can actually help them, not destroy them.

  • Yolanda


  • Daniel

    Wouldn’t they be un-contacted Native Peruvians, not Indians?

  • EWM Autodidakt

    none of us – except uncontacted – has a valid passport for this area – and the residents do not want us – to see – SO STAY OUT! – Everything else is illegal – WRONG – home-made law

  • Mari Pasonen

    What happened for sixth man who floates in the water at the beginning of the video? At the end there is only five men left and then they get angry. Did they wait boat comes to help sixth man?

  • Gail

    All societies were once tribal…are we really thinking that we can preserve some tribal societies? Keep them in a bubble? Would any of you chose to go back to a tribal existance if you could? I’m not sure we are protecting them, for them, perhaps we are just curious to keep them in a bubble, for our own interest…to study them. How can they possibly decide if it’s right to join the larger society…the divide is so wide, they can’t see the other side. So the reflex is to say ‘stay away, we don’t want anything to do with you’. Doesn’t mean that’s what should happen. Just don’t think it’s so clear cut.

  • […] out more about the indigenous uncontacted tribe in Peru that people are fighting to protect from the greed and corruption of our world at National […]

  • ajay


  • Nora

    How amazing that theres still some tribes out there we’ve no clue about living away from our society. Clearly they don’t need any of ours means to survive. Makes me very angry and sad that the rainforest is being chopped down at a critical rate. Man’s greediness is what will bring an end to us one day…

  • Joe the Scientist

    Uncontacted? As shown by the manufactured hat and forged shotgun in the picture, one can hardly call them uncontacted anymore. Save the planet is a good idea. Calling contacted people uncontacted is obvious and unconvincing propaganda that hurts the effort.

  • Julian Alien

    I can not believe one of the completely out of touch commentators explained that these people were part of the Bering Straits migration.You and your ilk have been debunked long ago.It is time to open a recent science report for you.I do agree with the people that said leave them alone,and would add that the best way to help them is to buy land surrounding them and do nothing with it.

  • Nasir

    arent they suppose to be in india if they r indians ? what are they doin in peru ( naked )….. ????/

  • Kore

    Lucky people!

  • royfarol

    another hoax, i should say. typical of the tribe of tasaday ‘discovered’ during the marcos-era here in the philippines. there is no such thing as ‘uncontacted’ tribe or people nowadays, only people frustrated to contact e.t.

  • Scott Wallace

    I would urge all those who have expressed their views here to read my new book, “The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes,” which offers an informed and in-depth discussion of these complex and fascinating issues: the meaning of ‘uncontacted,’ whether to contact or leave these people alone, the historical record of contact, the lessons of the Tasaday tribe in the Philippines. It’s all there. Thank you for your interest and your passion for this important issue.

  • roger moore

    when the 7 billion is wiped out, may the meek be left to inherit the earth !

  • Carlos

    It’s amazing!!, is difficult believe this.

  • Felipe Ramirez

    Amazing and beautiful to read so many comments in favor of letting these people be. However, so many of the comments although well meaning are still Euro-centric. Kevin, people are concerned with the word “Indian” because they actually care to get it right, out of respect. And as you’ve mentioned it does matter what people call themselves, and I’m sure you would agree that the people in discussion don’t call themselves “Indian,” Columbus was simply, wrong. I am mestizo, and I don’t appreciate any aspect of my cultural genealogy being referred to as Indian. I think those Indians you say call themselves Indian are from the U.S. A product of cultural colonization is that the conquerors tell the conquered what they are and should call themselves. Another reason why the people in discussion should be left alone; even well meaning contact can have a negative effect on their identity, which is as important as existence.

  • JAson

    How many commenters here have heard of the term “Ayahuasca”? These tribes people from Peru are ancestors with the Brazilian tribe who have shared this amazing and little known secret about their ways. One tiny tribe, once also “uncontacted” has now made ripples around the world and have done their part to help raise the consciousness of all humanity. Please take a moment to look up Ayahuasca.

  • Tanya

    My parents were born in Argentina, my father is a native of the country, he reffers to himself and others as “Indio” (Indian).
    Im not sure why this has turned into politics.
    What I do know is just like modern society found its way so to will they if THEY choose to. Why do we feel we need to “educate” their children or provide them access to medicine, they obviously are doing fine on their own and perhaps they have something to teach us! How to live and survive on earth without destruction or war. If we as a society had not been so greedy we wouldnt have the need to SAVE THE FORREST. What good will it do to educate them in modern ways, they have no need for that. And that’s what is most inspirational! If I could choose I would want to live like them. Perhaps in another life.

  • […] Government to avoid close contact with nomadic tribes follows several sightings in recent months, National Geographic […]

  • Andrea

    I say leave them and their territory alone. If they have any interest in changing their way of life they can make contact with others. Modern life is not all it’s cracked up to be. They are not in any way inferior because they have no technology. Maybe they are better because they do not destroy their surroundings like we do.

  • Jacinta Koolmatrie

    I believe they should be left alone. As an Aboriginal from Australia I know that a lot of my culture has been destroyed from European settlement and the best thing to do for these people should be to let them live their life.
    If we were to move in and study them or introduce them to our life chaos for them would begin. It is well-known that drug and alcohol affects the Aboriginal communities much more than non-aboriginals. If they were to be introduced to all these things it would just be a replay of settlement in all the other countries! We have learnt the bad things that have come out of doing this, let’s not go over it again. As educated people we should know it’s the wrong approach. There really should be no approach.

  • Kirk Nixon

    I just hope that every person that comes at them with a Bible is shot dead…. right after the oil executive that says they are imaginary. It is inevitable that some kind of contact will be made. Hopefully we will learn to live more like them (again) than they like us.

  • mike

    Joe the Scientist – read the photo captions before commenting. That is a picture of on the scouts in the exploration party, not one of the tribes people they are documenting.

  • Julius

    Let’s go there and give them religion so they could also go to heaven together with us….. ????

  • […] Read a full report on National Geographic Share November 3rd, 2011 […]

  • mr. gums

    its our brother human beings so let them live in there ways

  • […] interest in seeing the Mashco-Piro contacted and “civilized” once and for all. In the meantime, adventure-seeking tourists have approached dangerously close to the Mashco-Piro while film crews have brought contagious diseases to other isolated groups […]

  • Lee

    I agree with Gail who posted October 22 from Prince Edward Island. The uncontacted tribes are human beings, with brains, reasoning and intellect as well as citizens of Peru. They are not zoo animals. The world is a small place and unless Peru puts a big fence around the “preserve” contact is inevitable.

    On the other hand what Kirk Nixon from Texas posted on October 29 is very chilling. Guess when you hide behind your computer screen you can type anything but I do believe the “mouth” or “keyboard” does reflect the heart to a degree.

  • […] tourists and released to the public last October by Peru’s Ministry of the Environment (see “Peru Releases Dramatic Footage of Uncontacted Indians.”) A park guard was wounded in an arrow attack along the Manu River last October around the time the […]

  • The Lucky Ones

    These people will be lucky to never come in contact with “civilization” They are lucky to not have to deal with greed, corruption, pettiness (which is seen throughout the comments about this article).

    They are the lucky ones having the knowledge to live off the lands and not deal with all the bullsh*t of government, laws and religion.

    And to the person who said they have a RIGHT to education, health care and blah blah… they probably know more about survival that most of the people. Yeah ansd health care, where pharmaceutical companies love your money, where you have to continuously buy medicine for things that big businesses brought about with the packaging of your food and ingredients to keep said food from spoiling and so on and so forth.

    Go do some research before acting like a do-gooder because your part of the world looks ugly.

  • […] on both banks. Video footage of the Mashco-Piro emerged last year that appeared to show travellers “playing a game of cat and mouse with the naked tribesmen”  and discussing whether to leave food or clothing for them on the riverbank.  None of the trips […]

  • Claude Slagenhop

    In this day and age, with the advances of Humanity, the idea that, on purpose, people are kept in these disparate conditions, in order to have a museum display, is outrageous. Please bring civilization to these left-behind people so that they may be taxed and they can pay their fair-share.

  • […] mashcos, según Wallace, se refugiaron entonces en “zonas alejadas y de difícil acceso”. Este reportero gráfico estadounidenseasegura que “es muy probable” que algunos grupos de los “centenares” de mashcos que viven en […]

  • […] Video: Peru Releases Footage of Uncontacted Tribes […]

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