We live in a world of NetFlix, Twix, and the late 70s/early 80s band Styx. But incredibly, not everybody binges on Netflix, indulges in the chocolatey, wafery goodness of Twix, or frantically changes the radio station the instant “Come Sail Away” starts playing on K–103.5: Your Home For the Very Worst in Rock. That’s because, unbelievably, there still exist civilizations that have had little to no contact with the outside world. Why aren’t they watching those YouTube videos of you opening mystery eBay boxes and revealing what’s inside? Because most of them live on hard-to-reach islands or are hidden within vast, heavily forested areas that are difficult to reach by car/boat/helicopter/unicorn. With that in mind, here are 6 isolated tribes that would no doubt hit that subscribe button if they had a WiFi connection.
By and large, the primary evidence of the existence of the Kawahiva has been archeological evidence (abandoned homes, arrows, hammocks, etc). But video footage of the tribe filmed in 2011 garnered significant attention around the world. Known by the locals as “the short people” or “red head people,” they only number around 30 members and live near the Brazilian city of Colniza, and while they live a nomadic lifestyle as a result of outside threats, there is evidence that they once lived in established settlements. They are known for the elaborate system of ladders they’ve built up in trees in order to collect honey.
For thousands of years the Yanomami have been inhabiting a stretch of rainforest that encompasses southern Venezuela and northern Brazil. Most of the 35,000 Yanomami live in village settlements that dot the area, but the number of Moxateteu — the name given to the ones who remain uncontacted — is relatively large. Measles wreaked havoc upon the population in the 1960s and another 500 were infected in 2018. Gold mining is another threat.
Mashco Piro (Peru)
Numbering between 100 and 250 members, the Mashco Piro tribe faces threats as a result of logging and oil/gas exploration. They largely shun outsiders, which is understandable considering back in 1894, most of their ancestors were slaughtered by the private army of Pervian rubber baron Carlos Fitzcarrald. However, due to their increasing displacement, some have started to emerge and have even been reported asking neighboring communities for food. This carries its own risks since the Mashco Piro lack immunities to common diseases.
Believed to be South America’s last uncontacted indigenous group outside of the Amazon Basin, Christian missionaries first encountered the Ayoreo people in the 1720s, but when the mission was abandoned in 1740s, the tribe was left alone for the next 200 years. In the early 19th century, the Ayoreo were murdered in an act of genocide and children stolen. While most of the 5,600 Ayoreo now live in settlements, approximately 100 remain uncontacted and continue to live a nomadic life within the Chaco Forest. However, loggers are clearing the forests with bulldozers, causing the Ayoreo to flee deeper into the forest. Aside from logging, the introduction of disease that the Ayoreo aren’t immune to threatens to decimate the population.
Of all the tribes on this list, the Awá are the ones that are considered to be the most endangered. They live in the Amazon forests along the Brazil/Peru border, and of the tribe’s 600 known members, only about 100 still live a nomadic lifestyle. The two biggest threats to their existence are illegal logging and wildfires. As a result, another tribe — known as the Guajajara — have taken it upon themselves to act as guardians in order to protect them.
Sentinelese (Andaman Islands)
The Sentinelese are by far the most discussed of the isolated tribes. Located on North Sentinel Island, territory administered by India in theory but whose inhabitants are given complete autonomy in practice, the tribe is extremely hostile towards those who approach the island. Virtually nothing is known about the people; even the language they speak is so mysterious that it remains unclassified. They aren’t known to engage in agriculture and while they use fire, it’s unclear whether they know how to start one. It is illegal to visit the island, although that didn’t stop a naive American missionary from landing and trying to convert the Sentinelese to Christianity in November 2018. That went down as well as you would imagine. There are no plans to recover his body.