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Isolated Tribes Die Shortly After We Meet Them 351

Daniel_Stuckey writes: "It's a story we all know — Christopher Columbus discovers America, his European buddies follow him, they meet the indigenous people living there, they indigenous people die from smallpox and guns and other unknown diseases, and the Europeans get gold, land, and so on. It's still happening today in Brazil, where 238 indigenous tribes have been contacted in the last several decades, and where between 23 and 70 uncontacted tribes are still living. A just-published report that takes a look at what happens after the modern world comes into contact with indigenous peoples isn't pretty: Of those contacted, three quarters went extinct. Those that survived saw mortality rates up over 80 percent. This is grim stuff."
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Isolated Tribes Die Shortly After We Meet Them

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  • HA (Score:4, Funny)

    by zamboni1138 ( 308944 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @11:22PM (#46701823)

    "people die from smallpox and guns and other unknown diseases"

    I'm pretty sure at least one of those was unintentional.

  • Jesus H Christ, but that's a huge spread. Do anthropologists actually know anything?

  • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @11:29PM (#46701885) Journal

    Wouldn't the same thing happen to pretty much any other species of animals, if one small group had been isolated for several hundred years and a much larger group came into contact with it? The only options are to absorb into the larger group, or die out from disease, starvation or direct fighting.

    • There is a huge span between "coming into contact" and "having to compete for space/food". The animals and plants I see day in and out seem to be generally rather more relaxed than what you are describing -- the option you pretend doesn't even exist, co-existence, is the most common one.

  • by RightwingNutjob ( 1302813 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @11:31PM (#46701905)
    The metaphorical White Man has a heavy burden here. Reach out to the savages, and there are adverse consequences, suffering, death, and loss of traditions going back millennia. Stay away, and people who should be your fellow human beings are cut off from the fruits of civilization, and are treated like livestock whose habitat must be delineated and (un)managed to keep their numbers healthy so that more children can be born into a life where their greatest aspiration can be to live just like their grandfathers going back tens of thousands of years.
    • The metaphorical White Man has a heavy burden here.

      What is the burden? I mean, what do you suggest doing? We can barely take care of ourselves out here.......

      • They really need access to Facebook.

    • Are you implying that white men have better aspirations than living?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      cut off from the fruits of civilisation

      Or cut off from the restrictions of civilisation. Is it better to live (on average - and the difference is much less once you ignore infant death) a short, free life or a long, tedious life? I'm not answering for anyone else, but my answer is that the modern Western world and the indigenous lifestyle seem to be equally tedious extremes, and both suffer the problem that it's very hard to escape either. Pre-globalisation, at least one could more easily escape the former.

      treated like livestock whose habitat must be delineated and (un)managed

      Eh, first world human private property

    • There is no heavy burden. If the consequences of contact are so disastrous, they must not be contacted, full stop. We have 95% of the world at our disposal. It wouldn't really kill us to leave some patches of unscathed rain forest standing. On the contrary, the non-stop, all consuming "progress" seems to be that which will kill us.

      • If the consequences of contact are so disastrous, they must not be contacted, full stop.

        You can't "not contact" them. People are pushing into their habitats no matter what. There is simply no option.

        Even if we had a choice, it's unclear that not contacting them would be the right thing to do. First, you are depriving them of many of the benefits of modern civilization: immunizations, agriculture, education. Second, they are occupying and using land very inefficiently. Finally, their societies generally vio

    • I've seen a documentary where they contacted one of these tribes. They were living a rich life in the jungle actually and were happy and never hungry. They didn't even have clothes. they were pretty much naked. Some missionaries decided to feel sorry for them and 'help' them. They gave them clothes, sodas, junk food and other staples from civilzation and led them out of the jungle into civilization. You know what happened? They went from a rich happy life in the jungle to living in abject poverty in s
  • Inherent bias (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JazzHarper ( 745403 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @11:42PM (#46701941) Journal

    We have considerably less data on the isolated tribes that die out before we meet them.

    • by alexhs ( 877055 )

      We have considerably less data on the isolated tribes that die out before we meet them.

      Well, that's what you think.

      We know how many there are (*).
      Should I remind you that the NSA never met you; however it knows more about you than your close family ?

      (*) Obviously, the civilians only get a rough approximation, the exact number is classified.

    • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      So you're saying they may have been dying out from our gun bullets before we met them?

    • We have considerably less data on the isolated tribes that die out before we meet them.

      We'd better find the rest before they die too.

      Which makes me wonder...what is the likelihood there are any undiscovered tribes? This lesson learned may never have the chance to be applied from here on out.

      • Which makes me wonder...what is the likelihood there are any undiscovered tribes?

        ^OK, ignore that part... the result of skipping the summary and skimming the article.... Although I still wonder if they are really truly "uncontacted" tribes.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @11:45PM (#46701955)

    Weren't they already in serious decline before being visited?

    That first graph shows a lot larger average population before year 0 (the year of contact), which slowly grows in the 20 years after contact.

    http://www.nature.com/srep/201... [nature.com]

    The original article seems to confirm this:

    http://www.nature.com/srep/201... [nature.com]

    Estimates of population sizes before sustained peaceful contact (n = 22, recorded an average of 45 years before contact, range 1–106) were on average 5.5 times larger than populations at contact ...

    So if populations were 5 times higher before any contact at all, why do they blame the contact for population declines?

    • The year zero on the graph is the approximate year of peaceful contact.

      • And yet GP is correct.

        On the graphs, there is a line for "pre 0", which is ~5x as high as the "year 0" line.

        So, why are we blaming contact for the primary problems, if population fell by 80% (to the year 0 levels) from pre-contact?

        • And yet GP is correct.

          On the graphs, there is a line for "pre 0", which is ~5x as high as the "year 0" line.

          So, why are we blaming contact for the primary problems, if population fell by 80% (to the year 0 levels) from pre-contact?

          Well, those 80% are presumably the ones that died when they came into non-peaceful contact by the less than peaceful Europeans who broke new ground.

  • What do they think? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by erlegreer ( 1994842 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @11:46PM (#46701967) Homepage

    What do uncontacted tribes think when they see our passenger jets and cargo ships? Gods?

  • by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @12:39AM (#46702151)

    Various Native American tribes are engaging in self-destructive behavior. Some say it is over gambling profits.

    Disenrollment leaves Natives "culturally homeless" [cbsnews.com]

    One tribe in California will shortly have cut itself in half, down to 900 or less: I Know I Am, But What Are You? [thisamericanlife.org]

    • by MRe_nl ( 306212 )

      The last chapter in any successful genocide is the one in which the oppressor can remove their hands and say, "My God, what are these people doing to themselves? They're killing each other. They're killing themselves while we watch them die."

      https://www.ted.com/talks/aaron_huey#t-6523 [ted.com]

      • Whatever happened to "Native Americans" a couple of centuries ago, the US has gone out of its way to try to help Native American communities for more than half a century. Calling this an ongoing genocide or oppression is just wrong.

        At this point, the "Native American" identity really has become a corrupt and racist farce: there simply is no separate group or culture of Native Americans; it's people who pick a particular identity for various personal, political, and economic reasons.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @12:43AM (#46702175)
    I am going to go out on a limb; but maybe the solution is to figure out which diseases are typically killing all these people, then put together a tasty treat that is filled with weakened strains of this and that, and air drop them into areas where these people might be living.

    Then stage two might be to hunt them sci-fi style with drones and fire vaccine darts into their asses.

    Now I am going to go even further out on a limb; To do anything less would be a condemnation on our lack of civilization. If the people of the world have to spend a few billion saving these people then I think that then we might be able to call ourselves at least marginally civilized.

    Look at the effort being spent on finding a missing plane. We are not doing it to find the plane so much as to find out what happened so that we don't have it happen to us. Maybe we can even find a selfish reason to save these people; so let's assume that one of their medicine men knows something pretty cool.
    • Y'know, I didn't read about the deaths of individuals in the article, but rather the decline of populations. It could be that people died, but it could also be that they left the former population group and moved somewhere further away from the nosy intruders. In particular, I could see people wanting to leave if the population was discovered in fairly close proximity to an operation that was converting forest to farmland or making a road that vehicles started using on a regular basis. When the populatio
  • by garry_g ( 106621 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @01:09AM (#46702271)

    ... look like it's time to put a Prime Directive into effect ... only observe them, protected by a cloaking shield ... do not make contact until they have developed warp drive ...

  • This is the argument that usually gets the slam-dunk in discussions with racial supremacists of any ilk.
    The fact that all civilizations form, collapse, and remorph is an element of evolution.

    As for indigenous populations dying off... many of them interbreed with the local populations, while the rest of them engage in self-destructive behaviour (gambling, alcohol, and other vices) which in turn destroy what's left of their old communities.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      As an ethnic German, I keep waiting for my sack of gold coins from Rome as reparations for Roman slavery, genocide and imperialism.

  • by Trax3001BBS ( 2368736 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @01:50AM (#46702405) Homepage Journal

    Mar 31, 2014 When I read this article 9 days ago, my first though was -well they're history.

    What This Uncontacted Tribe Did When Seeing A Plane For The First Time Is Awesome Yet Heartbreaking.

    Upon seeing an airplane, this was their reaction.
    http://www.berbix.com/stories/... [berbix.com]


    11 August 2011 Find one lose another.

    Brazil confirms existence of 'lost Amazon tribe' discovered via satellite as another goes missing after drug gang attack
    The news comes as another uncontacted tribe went 'missing' after drug traffickers overran Brazilian guards posted to protect its lands.
    No trace of the Indian tribe has been found after heavily-armed men destroyed a guard post in western Brazil around 32 miles from the Peruvian border.
    Workers from FUNAI, the government bureau of Indian affairs, found a broken arrow in one of the men's backpacks, raising fears for the tribe's safety.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new... [dailymail.co.uk]

  • "indigenous people die from smallpox and guns and other unknown diseases" Yeah, guns are the worst disease - there is still no vaccine for it.
  • Don't despair. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OpenSourced ( 323149 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @03:02AM (#46702613) Journal

    There is always the possibility that one of these tribes will have a sickness that will wipe out the rest of the world. Or at least 80% of it.

  • How many rainforest diseases have we taken back to civilization? Syphilis? What about when man encounters extraterrestrial life - we have sci-fi stories about how they die because of our germs and diseases but what about the pathogens they bring to us? Will there be a mass die-off of human life on the same scale? If the government is scared of something, Im sure this would be high on the list, TFA being an example
  • by StripedCow ( 776465 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @04:43AM (#46702903)

    These tribes, that have never been in contact with western civilization, could be very helpful in the USPTO.
    Being void of any reference to technology, we could use them to figure out whether patent applications are truly non-obvious inventions.

    E.g., if a tribe member can figure out "slide-to-unlock" by himself, then we can be sure that it is obvious stuff!

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- Albert Einstein