In DepthAnthropology

Deadly attack on isolated tribe

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Science  11 Dec 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6266, pp. 1304
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6266.1304

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This fall, 21 members of the Korubo tribe—who live deep in the Amazon rainforest, follow a traditional way of life, and typically shun interactions with outsiders—made contact with settled Matis villagers in western Brazil. But when government workers came to provide medical care, they heard disturbing news: The Korubo said they had survived an attack by members of the Matis in December 2014; at least eight Korubo were killed, apparently in revenge for the deaths of two Matis men. These revelations, made public only late last month, have rekindled a broader debate about how to manage contact as isolated indigenous peoples increasingly emerge from the forest, displaced by mining, logging, and illegal activities (Science, 5 June, pp. 1061, 1072, 1080). Official Brazilian policy is not to contact isolated people. But in this case, some observers say the government should have intervened sooner in order to prevent the tragic deaths of both Matis and Korubo.

  • * Barbara Fraser is a freelance writer in Lima.