Changing Planet

Uncontacted Yanomami village seen in aerial photograph

New picture of an uncontacted Yanomami village in Brazil. © Hutukara/Survival

The view from the air: a brilliant green sea of Amazonian forest, interrupted by a circular, palm-thatched dwelling.

It was once thought that all Yanomami Indians of the Brazilian Amazon had been contacted during the latter half of the 20th century.

This photograph shows otherwise.

Released by Survival International this week, the image reveals that there is a community of uncontacted Yanomami still living in the heart of the largest forested indigenous territory in the world, in northern Brazil.

But illegal goldmining camps are operating just 15 kilometers from where they live. If the miners are not expelled as a matter of urgency, they could come into contact with the community and pose a threat to their lives: the Yanomami will have little or no immunity to diseases brought in by outsiders.

At least 800 people from Brazil’s army and police force are now involved in a mission to remove the goldminers; it has been reported that so far, 30 have been evicted.

‘There are many uncontacted Indians,’ Davi Kopenawa, a spokesman for the Yanomami, told Survival recently. ‘I want to help my uncontacted relatives, who have the same blood as us. They have never seen the white man’s world.’

If they do not want to join the white man’s world, that’s entirely up to them. It is their choice – and their right – to remain isolated.



Joanna Eede was an editorial consultant to Survival International with a particular interest in the relationship between man and nature and tribal peoples. She has created and edited three environmental books, including Portrait of England (Think Publishing, 2006) and We are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples (Quadrille, 2009). Joanna writes for newspapers and magazines on subjects such as the repatriation of wild Przewalski horses to Mongolia, the whales of the Alboran sea, the chimpanzees of the Mahale rainforest, uncontacted tribes of the Amazon rainforest and the Hadza hunter gatherer people of Tanzania. Future ideas include a book about Tibet’s nomads.

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