Peru to Make First Contact With Remote Amazon Tribe
Mashco Piro has been emerging on its own, a potentially risky move
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2015 8:41 AM CDT
This 2011 photo shows members of the Mashco Piro tribe, photographed at an undisclosed location near the Manu National Park in southeastern Peru.   (AP Photo/Diego Cortijo, Survival International, File)

(Newser) – A tribe that lives deep in the Amazon rainforest is about to get a visit from the government: Peru says it will take the controversial step of making contact with the Mashco Piro, reports Live Science. The government has a hands-off policy when it comes to such tribes because their members are so vulnerable to disease when they meet the modern world. But in this case, the Mashco Piro has been venturing out of the rainforest in encounters with neighboring villagers, missionaries, and even tourists. Reuters reports at least 100 such instances over the past year. "The only ones who haven't been in contact with them are representatives of the state!" says a government official. Anthropologists also say it makes sense to establish official contact, especially now that tribe members are emerging on their own and putting themselves at risk.

"Well-organized contacts are today both humane and ethical," write two researchers in Science. In refusing them, "governments are simply guaranteeing that accidental and disastrous contacts will take place instead." The government says a team of doctors upriver will be prepared to treat tribe members if illness occurs. The Washington Post reports that another factor also is driving the "urgency" of the contact: In May, tribe members killed a young man from another village with an arrow, and other violent encounters have been recorded. The government hopes to play peacekeeper before things get out of control. (Besides, one school of thought is that it's impossible for "lost tribes" to remain lost these days.)