Don't Be Too Impressed: Lost Tribes Not So Lost

Think of lost as a relative term, writes John Gimlette
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2011 10:57 AM CST

(Newser) – It's tough not to be sucked in by the newly released images of a thus-far unknown Brazilian tribe. Travel writer John Gimlette, for one, was, but writing for the Telegraph, he can't help but be a wee bit cynical. After all, "it’s hard to believe that these days an entire society can be truly 'lost' for long." Our planet has been poked, prodded, photographed, and traversed by NASA, the US military, anthropologists, prospectors, hunters, and bandits, he writes. "To remain lost, despite all this, would be quite an achievement for any tribe."

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Still, one group that works on behalf of tribal peoples estimates about 70 lost tribes—groups "that have no sustained contact with mainstream society—still exist. "In this context, it’s often therefore better to think of 'lost' as a relative term," writes Gimlette, who goes on to list example after example from his own experience with tribes that have been described as lost: Paraguay’s Ayoreo tribe, whose members he'd run into around the Chaco desert; the cannibalistic Aché tribe in Paraguay who told him, "We haven’t eaten anyone for 20 years, although we think about it all the time"; and the Bonda, a tribe in India whose women wear only silver and beads. "Encounters with tribes need not always be bad," writes Gimlette. "The 'lost Brazilians' may be a little less lost in the weeks to come, but I suspect it will take more than discovery to threaten their future."
(Read more lost tribes stories.)

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