Are there ‘uncontacted tribes’? The short answer: No.

As some of you know, one of my areas of expertise is first contact in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, and in the course of my fieldwork I was lucky enough to speak with a few of the people who remembered the first couple of Australian patrols into the area where I worked in Papua New Guinea. So although I am critical of exoticised stories of ‘first contact’ I do think in certain situations using the term ‘uncontacted’ or ‘first contact’ is appropriate.

But not all situations, and especially not the case of “lost tribe that wasn’t” which our own Jay Sosa “mentioned on SM”: recently. This topic was also covered on my colleague “Jamon Halvaksz’s blog”: A member of Survival International then left a comment on Jamon’s blog defending the article (see this “press release”: and their own “blog entry”: and directing readers to their “page on uncontacted tribes”:

So what do anthropologists who specialize in first contact say? Are there ‘uncontacted tribes’? The short answer is ‘no’, and while I appreciate SI’s work on behalf of ‘tribal’ people, I find it disappointing to find that they still use this sort of language. Any one who reads the material on their web page will see that by ‘uncontacted’ they actually man ‘frequently in contact with, and victimized by, outsiders’. Let’s take a look at the evidence from SI’s website.

The opening line of the SI “Campaign for Uncontacted Tribes” reads

Over one hundred tribes around the world choose to reject contact with outsiders. They are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet.

Many of them are living on the run, fleeing invasions of their land by colonists, loggers, oil crews and cattle ranchers. They have often seen their friends and families die at the hands of outsiders, in unreported massacres or epidemics.

This is their story.

Clearly, people fleeing and living on the run who have seen their family die at the hands of outsiders are not ‘uncontacted’. There are then eight links listed in the “learn more” page. These include:

“Why do they hide”: – on this page the term ‘uncontacted’ appears in scare quotes and we are told that “Many tribal people who are today ‘uncontacted’ are in fact the survivors (or survivors’ descendants) of past atrocities.”

“The Most Isolated Tribe In The World”: – from the Andaman islands which was apparently contacted in 1879 by British colonial officers.

“Just For Fun”: – Another story from the Andamans, which describes visits to the Andamans in the 70s and 80s, followed by a picture with the caption stating that “The British first made contact with some Andamanese tribes in the 19th Century.”

“Before Contact – On The Run”: – which begins by describing “The constant incursions of outsiders” into Ayoreo territory.

“Making Contact”: – which is about a first contact made with a group of 24 people (a subset of some larger, previously contacted group, apparently) made over ten years ago.

“Threats”: which focuses on the very real threats these people face, but in which we also learn that the ‘uncontacted’ Jarawa ‘tribe’ of Andaman islanders

saw their land split in two when the islands administration built a highway through their territory. It is now the principal road through the islands. There is not only a constant stream of settlers travelling in buses and taxis, but the road acts as a conduit for tourists, and for poachers targeting the Jarawa’s reserve (which, unlike the rest of the islands, is still covered in rainforest). Jarawa children are often seen begging by the side of the road, and there is some evidence of the sexual exploitation of Jarawa women.

So in fact none of the people listed on the ‘uncontacted tribes’ are, according to SI’s own material, actually uncontacted in any straightforward sense of the term. The problem they face is exactly the fact that they are in contact with a world that is giving them the shortest end of the stick possible.

I think SI’s attempts to bring these problems to the attention of the public is admirable, but couching these problems in the language ‘uncontacted’ and ‘first contact’ does not do justice to their situation: decades of direct contact, centuries of influence, and millennia of attenuated interconnection with their fellow human beings.

Perhaps the people at SI are just romantic, or perhaps they just know ‘uncontacted’ is more attention-grabbing than ‘uncontacted except for that highway the tourists use’, or perhaps they are just using the word in a particular way. Whatever the case, using the term ‘uncontacted’ hurts more than than it helps, despite its short term efficacy. It is inaccurate, it draws power from stereotypes that should be overturned rather than used, and it makes us forget that the ‘uncontacted tribes’ we meet have a history, and that ‘tribal’ groups of this sort are often the results of frontier situations rather than preexisting them.

In sum, SI seems to use the word ‘uncontacted’ to mean “at this moment there is no peaceful contact with these tribes,” which seems to really mean “groups with long histories of contact and even longer histories of indirect influence, who currently have violent contact with the outside world. (And who counts as ‘the ouside world’ by the way?) This is fine as well as it goes. But for those of us who use the word ‘uncontacted’ as the opposite of ‘contacted’ — that is to say, who think it means ‘never having been contacted’ these groups are very much ‘contacted’. The inegalitarian nature of this contact is the raison d’etre of SI’s existence — if they were really so ‘uncontacted’ then they wouldn’t be under threat and there’d be no website about them.

So, in sum: support people who are subject to injustice and, if you like, consider doing that by “donating”: to SI or “getting active”: with them. But the next time the topic comes up in conversation and someone tells you that there are ‘uncontacted tribes’ out there totally isolated from the rest of the world, make sure they get their facts straight.

Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

20 thoughts on “Are there ‘uncontacted tribes’? The short answer: No.

  1. Rex says, “But the next time the topic comes up in conversation and someone tells you that there are ‘uncontacted tribes’ out there totally isolated from the rest of the world, make sure they get their facts straight.”

    So what’s the problem and, for that matter, the logic here? Who apart from Rex is saying “uncontacted” means, “totally isolated from the rest of the world”? Why is “first contact” fine for PNG, but not for Amazonia: so, the PNG tribes he is thinking of had no contact with anyone else, ever? How does Rex know? In any case, I thought I was descended from exactly the same people they were.

    Any term anyone uses is a shorthand (qv. ‘nomadic’, ‘hunter-gatherer’, ‘American’, ‘immigrant’): that happens to be what language is. Any term can be elaborated on for any length you like, and no two opinions are likely to agree exactly on precise definitions. So what?

    Does Rex seriously expect us to say, “at this moment there is no peaceful contact with these tribes” instead of using the word “uncontacted”? Any why exactly does it make us “just romantic” if we do?

    The next time the topic comes up, remember to make sure everyone gets their facts straight: confirm that there are at least 100 peoples in the world who reject attempts at contacting them. Call them whatever you like, but stress that there are ways of helping them – by telling governments and companies you think their land and right to reject “contact” should be respected. You might add that if they lose their land, they simply won’t survive.

    (If you find that concept overly “romantic”, please ask your partner to explain carefully what he or she thinks “romance” really is.)

  2. Stephen, Its nice to see SI is so interested in this debate and I think it shows good intent. The point for me is simply that on the one hand, SI protests when the media runs with a lost tribe narrative, but on the other it is a narrative that SI is playing into. Uncontacted can in fact mean not contacted. Its not that indigenous peoples are lacking in this thing called contact, they lack authority and power. SI is rightfully involved in trying to address that and playing on the uncontacted/lost narrative seems to be a nice way to build up some sort of moral support for so called ‘uncontacted’ communities. But by marking groups as uncontacted vs contacted SI is setting up a dichotomy of communities which those in power might deem merit different kinds of assistance/ respect. Certainly not SI’s intent, but this is the narrative that SI is perhaps inadvertently helping to generate.

  3. Who apart from Rex is saying “uncontacted” means, “totally isolated from the rest of the world”?

    Well, everyone I know that speaks English as a first, second, third, or fouth language is aware that {un-} negates the morpheme to which it is affixed. There are at least half a billion English speakers on the planet, so, apart from Rex, at least half a billion people are saying that “uncontacted” means “totally isolated from the rest of the world”.

    Any term anyone uses is a shorthand (qv. ‘nomadic’, ‘hunter-gatherer’, ‘American’, ‘immigrant’): that happens to be what language is. Any term can be elaborated on for any length you like, and no two opinions are likely to agree exactly on precise definitions. So what?

    And the United States government doesn’t torture. I have a great respect for what you’re doing with your life, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

  4. ‘Who apart from Rex is saying “uncontacted” means, “totally isolated from the rest of the world”?’

    I would substitute ‘saying’ for ‘believing’. When this story hit the media, it moved beyond addressing the anthropological interpretive community, and instead encouraged belief in ‘totally isolated’. Part of the media-attractiveness was just this.
    I did have friends and acquaintances telling me how exciting the story was – I was originally referring them to the Culture Matters post, but have now also been forwarding on this one from Rex since I think they do more justice to explanation than I can.

  5. Well I suppose you could be charitable and say some of the people you describe are ‘uncontacted’ in the same sense that someone who has recently been divorced is ‘unmarried’ – they’ve done it before, they might do it again but at the moment, no. But honestly — how can you claim that Andanamese women are both 1) sexually exploited by outsiders and 2) uncontacted? I just don’t understand.

    Perhaps the campaign should be called ‘previously contacted tribes’ or ‘trying not to be contacted again tribes’. The whole point of the organization is to try to bring some justice to the contact process, which is already going on and has clearly had a dramatic effect on the communities involved.

    I think that Stephen’s comment does hit on the most important point, however, when he writes “Call them whatever you like, but stress that there are ways of helping them – by telling governments and companies you think their land and right to reject ‘contact’ should be respected.” This is why I included links in my post to SI’s donation and activism pages. I just wish that SI used a more accurate — and less exoticizing — term for the people they are trying to help.

  6. I can’t add much to what is already a great discussion and a very useful post to precede it. I am one of those who was left quite confused by what seemed to be the strange choice of “uncontacted” which in practice is synonymous with “undiscovered” — never-before-contacted does indeed imply that they have never been seen by any outsider, and it’s just not plausible if one knows anything about village fission and fusion in the Amazon, as well as something about kinship networks. In fact at first my own reaction was simply to make a big joke of this notion — I was aghast at how we seem to be turning back the clock in so many ways worldwide, which also entails producing a kind of crass and vulgar rendition of anthropology that resembles an Indiana Jones film, but remade by Quentin Tarantino.

    I would think it is better to educate the public by getting shrinking minds to admit just one or two more words to their vocabulary, such as autarchic (or autarkic, depending on your preference). If these groups have purposely isolated themselves, and reject all external contact (except perhaps for neighbouring groups), then the word for that is autarky, not “uncontacted.” It’s not that any implicit romanticism of “uncontacted” is the real problem (I am a big fan of romance), it’s just a very counterintuitive term that does far more to mislead than to clarify.

    So why use it?

  7. Let’s be clear here. There is no record of anyone ever making contact with the people in the photos. Their approximate whereabouts has been known for some time; sometimes more precisely seen from the air. The rubber boom reached around there at the end of the 19th century, so it is possible their forebears encountered some rubber tappers, but no one knows and it is also possible they didn’t. They may have had contact with others in more distant centuries and ‘retreated’ to where they are now but, again, it is equally possible they didn’t. No one knows; there are no records of it. If you go there today, they will certainly do their utmost to avoid you (to put it mildly).

    That is ‘uncontacted’ if anything is. It’s a term I’ve heard many anthropologists use over several decades. Some sectors of the media interpret it as ‘undiscovered’. That’s ethnocentric, obviously wrong, and Survival doesn’t use it (Of course we realise that Columbus didn’t discover the Americas. Do those who argue that the terms are near-synonymous, think he did?). But you can argue about words forever (though we won’t).

    JH asks, perfectly reasonably, ‘Why draw a distinction?’ Well, in Peru for example, ‘native communities’ can be ‘registered’, have recognised ‘councils’, and see their land recognised. They can speak for themselves. Obviously, uncontacted peoples can’t. If their land is to be recognised as theirs, the law must be applied differently. Also, they are vulnerable to disease in a way which more contacted peoples aren’t. That’s one reason, irrespective of debates about indigenous rights, why loggers, film crews etc should not attempt contact. That’s why a distinction is vital. The Brazilian authorities recognise this with a specialist department within FUNAI dedicated only to such peoples.

    There are plenty of peoples who constitute an ‘autarky’ (though that also has nuances – lots of peoples acquire things from ‘outside’ well before anyone turns up to shake their hands) who are not uncontacted. No journalist is ever going to use such a word. It’s all very well (some) anthropologists adopting a superior ‘we know best’ attitude vis-à-vis the media, but it’s pointless. How do you know US forces (surely not the ‘government’ itself!) resort to torture, if not through the media?

    It has always dismayed me that there is a sector of the ‘anthropological interpretive community’ which rubbishes attempts – often extremely successful ones – to help tribal peoples assert their rights. There are others of course who don’t, and who are in the vanguard of the indigenous rights movements. Each to his/her own, but don’t pretend that the sceptics and critics speak for all anthropologists: I assure you, they (some of you?) don’t.

  8. PS Not sure if my last comment has reached your system, but I forgot to refer to Rex’s latest… The very first sentence about the Jarawa of the Andamans in our relevant page reads, ‘The Jarawa chose to resist contact with all outsiders until 1998.’ It is their women who are molested. The Sentinelese of the Andamans remain uncontacted (and we stand by the term in spite of some government boat landings some years ago). Their women are not molested because no one goes there. Both feature in our uncontacted tribes campaign because it’s important that people understand what the future will bring for these peoples. If you restrict information only to what is known about ‘unknown’ tribes, then you won’t be able to say anything at all! There is nothing misleading about this.

  9. Too many issues are now being added to one another, apparently without meaningful relation to the statements actually being made here. First of all, none of us want to nor should surrender all the territory to the media, without so much as a comment — if that makes us “superior” and “we know best” types, then so be it. The alternative seems to be silencing criticism and dissent — an option that would harm SI as much as any of us. And we have blogs so that we can at least stem some of the media tide. Secondly, nobody here claimed to speak for all anthropologists, so let’s just throw that one out because it is irrelevant to the discussion, except to say that it is another attempt to silence criticism by using a veiled, “who the hell are you? You’re a nobody!” kind of approach. Lastly, I see a repetition here of the uncontacted-but-yes-previously contacted confusion — it’s not the way to go if you want to do anything other than latch onto popular, ethnocentric, Western fantasies, and end up reinforcing them. One should argue about words, without a doubt, at least until hand gestures and scents become the main means of transmitting information via the media. Let’s not dismiss the power of words, especially as SI is being threatened with a lawsuit over the use of a particular word.

  10. PS: Am I mistaken, or is questioning SI being understood as being the same as opposing SI? I could write lengthy elegies about SI’s work, and indicate all the ways I wish I could help (except that they ignore the Caribbean and probably don’t want to hear from me anyway), and I hope that nothing here is taken as an attack on SI’s efforts. I thought Rex was careful to make that point more than once.

  11. But there were no questions put to Survival, just overt criticism launched in a blog which ordinarily we would not have seen and so had no opportunity of responding to. A good deal of it – though not, of course, all – is an unequivocal attack on Survival. Eg. Rex’s, ‘using the term ‘uncontacted’ hurts more than than it helps’. What could be a more damaging allegation than saying that an NGO established to try and solve a problem, in fact makes it worse?

    Survival is perfectly open to questions. It thinks carefully about the terms it uses – after all, hundreds of thousands of people will read them within a few days. Not everyone will agree with them, but they are considered, and if asked we can explain why we resort to them rather than alternatives (our use of ‘Bushmen’, ‘tribal peoples’, ‘uncontacted’, are all thought about at length and we are happy to defend them when given the chance, though obviously there is plenty wrong with all of them).

    Anyway, I apologise for the confusion over the order in my postings (and the duplicate)!

  12. I’ll clean up the duplicate comments.

    Stephen says: “just overt criticism launched in a blog which ordinarily we would not have seen and so had no opportunity of responding to.”

    My comment was not ‘just overt criticism.’ Did you miss lines like “I appreciate SI’s work on behalf of ‘tribal’ people” or “I think SI’s attempts to bring these problems to the attention of the public is admirable” or when I suggested (repeatedly) that people donate to your organization?

    This post is an attempt to provide interested nonspecialists an answer to the question “Are there still ‘uncontacted tribes’?” My short answer was “no” and I analyzed the material on the SI website to indicate that, contrary to the impression it creates, it in fact supports my claim. I still stand by this analysis, and I also stand by my claim to speak for the profession as a whole when I say that all humans being have always been in contact with one another, to some extent or another (I’ve already written a post explaining what ‘contact’ might mean). This is one of the fundamental findings of our discipline.

    I am critical of the models of society and history that underlie SI’s presentation of itself on the website. I am not critical of its goal or good works. Stephen seems to think that principles agreement about one part of an organization is total disagreement with all of it. I wish he could see his way past this but if he can’t, there’s probably nothing I can do to convince him of it.

    “A blog which ordinarily we would not have seen and so had no opportunity of responding to.”

    I included links to SI because I knew that these would alert the SI’s website that we had commented on them, which apparently it did. The tenor of Scott’s comments seems to suggest that it is somehow my fault that he doesn’t read SM, and that I should only blog about my regular readers. This is just not how the Internet works. I don’t think anyone should read SM if they don’t want to but… perhaps an organization like SI might want to check out the most popular cultural anthropology blog from time to time?

    “Survival is perfectly open to questions. It thinks carefully about the terms it uses… and we are happy to defend them when given the chance”

    OK: Why did you choose the word ‘uncontacted’ when it is so manifestly a poor choice?

    On the one hand, I’m happy to provide SI the chance to defend their use of the term ‘uncontacted’ here on SM, both in comments or in an occasional piece. They also have their own blog and website. So I would encourage them to post something entitled “Why ‘uncontacted’ — the name we chose and the reason behind it”. But that, so far, has not happened.

    On the other hand, I am disappointed that SI feels that questions are acceptable but criticisms of any sort are not. Let me be clear — I don’t doubt that SI thinks carefully about the terms it uses. I just think that they have made the wrong decision in this case. I understand that SI got a lot of flack for the recent ‘lost tribes’ fiasco and they may feel on the defensive, but it is disappointing that their response to criticism always to defend their position rather than to take a measured approach and explain why they’ve chosen the terms they have, and maybe even admit that they may have something to learn from other people. Instead I feel we are being labeled the ‘bad’ anthropologists who ask hard questions instead of the ‘good’ anthropologists who are unquestioningly sympathetic towards SI.

    I guess I am just more of a fan of overt criticism than Stephen is — I believe in the power of reasoned discourse in which people make claims clearly and overtly, and other people then respond to them. I believe the ability to engage in this sort of discourse even when the stakes are high is a true virtue. Instead Stephen has made insulting references to my relationship with my partner and accused me of being opposed to rights for tribal/indigenous people. This is not the best way to build alliances with anthropologists.

  13. As interesting as Savage Minds is, I’ve never got the impression that many of the commentators have any interest in indigenous rights. This latest commentary pretty much reinforces that interpretation.

    So instead of this sniping, how about a discussion about the whether, and if so how, anthropology and anthropologists should contribute to the indigenous rights movement? SI is by no means the only player in this, but it does seem to be the most obviously successful. If there is a contribution, perhaps it should ‘include’, as opposed to more-or-less solely consisting of, constructive criticism?

  14. Uh… Kerim Friedman is actively involved in documenting the lives of Denotified and Nomadic Tribes (DNTs) in India as a film maker and activist, and is currently working actively with the NGO “Vimkuta”:

    You can read more about the Porgera mine that I study here:

    I am less an activist than Kerim, and most of my written work has been critical of land and landowner registration programs that do a bad job (in my opinion) of providing benefits to landowners (largely because they are based on romantic notions of indigenous authenticity). Two papers you might be interested in include:

    I think you are right Thomas, I (or someone) should write more about the relationship between anthroplogists and ‘the indigenous rights movement’ and I’d like to do so… when I’m not so burned out on this topic…

  15. Thanks Rex – very interesting – I’ll read up on those papers. It would certainly also be good to hear more on the subject of indigenous rights and anthropology in a future post here on SM.


  16. Here’s a pretty intersting link that is relevant to the original question posed by Rex – both on ‘uncontacted’ peoples as well as SI’s ‘romanticism’ and misuse of the term.

    Quite a spat brewing, as this link shows
    and some intemperate language as well, but I can’t help feeling (especially as I have been to the Andamans and know the ground situation) that SI has overstretched all credulity here.

    As Rex says, it undermines genuine work for the benefit of such peoples.

    The Jarawa are anything but isolated – in factmy girlfriend lost her chocolates to them on a visit last year and there were hundreds of other visitors present on the day. The Jarawa have daily interaction with hundreds of visitors and some even speak the main Indian language yet Survival terms them ‘isolated’.



  17. Paul,

    Survival refers to the Jarawa as ‘isolated’ and ‘recently-contacted’ because as a people they have had peaceful contact with outsiders for only 10 years, and are still at very significant risk of disease. While some Jarawa come out of the reserve from time to time, and some emerge quite regularly, most in fact stay inside the reserve, and clearly don’t want interaction with outsiders. Even those who do like to visit the trunk road when they are young (such as those you will have seen while on the Andamans) go back into the forest once they get married and have family responsibilities.

    Those Jarawa emerging from the reserve could easily pick up diseases and transmit it to those inside. The Jarawa have already suffered from measles, chicken pox and malaria since they started coming out onto the road and we are now of course facing a global flu pandemic.

    This is why Survival considers an influx of tourists to the edge of the reserve to be so irresponsible. Many will have recently stepped off airliners and are likely to be carrying diseases to which the Jarawa have no resistance.

    Toby, Survival International

  18. Well, I’m glad someone from Survival International has responded.
    I can’t help feeling though, having read all sides of the argument in various online fora, that Survival has seriously exaggerated here.

    I have stayed at the Barefoot location in South Andaman at Colinpur Village last year. The resort is a very small one – 6 tents and one bungalow priced at approx US$40 per night per couple. It is located quite far distant from the Jarawa Reserve (more than a couple of kilometers at the very least) and there is no interaction between Jarawa and the resort. In fact, the resort expressly forbids any attempt to contact the Jarawa, and explains the same to guests, but that is more for legal and cultural reasons (it is not legal to enter the reserve and considered culturally inappropriate by the resort owners for outsiders to try to initiate contact with the Jarawa).

    Diseases such as measles etc have not caused any mortality amongst the Jarawa in the past 10 years of contact, as per online postings, which suggests to me that they are nowhere near as vulnerable as Survival International claims they are, in its stand. Also, diseases such as those mentioned, and also swine flu require close personal contact, none of which is available through this resort which is located much much further away than Survival International’s exaggerated claims of less than 500 metres.

    I have been there and I can vouch for the fact that the resort it is more than a few kilometres away from the reserve. Also, it is in the midst of farmland and not on any hunting path of the Jarawa as Survival claimed. In fact, this is the most baffling thing of all to an informed observer – these are very obvious exaggerations, and the actions of Survival International almost stinks of a stitch-up by Survival International and I cannot understand why they would seek to do this?

    The Jarawa are in daily contact with hundreds of tourists inside the reserve. It seems to me to be very inappropriate and inexplicable why Survival would target a resort many kilometers outside the reserve when the real dangers to the Jarawa lie elsewhere.

    The language of the debate between Survival and Barefoot is harsh on both sides. But I sympathise with the resort in this case. Having been there, I can say that my interpretation of the truth is this: Survival has chosen a soft and inappropriate target. It has exaggerated the situation of the tribals and exaggerated the situation of the resort. The resort has reacted sharply because Survival’s actions have (unfairly in my opinion) affected the resorts business.

    My point is this – Survival have exagerated on many counts:
    1) The Jarawa are not isolated
    2) The Jarawa are not at mortal risk in the manner Survival suggests
    3) The resort (Barefoot) is nowhere near as close to the reserve as Survival suggests
    4) There is no hunting path of the Jarawa in the vicinity of the resort
    5) Swine flu does not spread in the manner Survival International obliquely suggests in its follow up release
    6) From my experience of the Jarawa, the ones I met wanted the contact with the outsiders.
    7) If they are other Jarawa – older ones – who do not want contact, the presumption must be that they will not trek down to the resort to seek contact

    Toby seems to suggest that the Jarawa should not want the contact if they know whats good for them, and that, even if they want the contact now, then when they grow older and wiser (like Toby??) they will not want the contact any more

    The Jarawa I met at Baratang jetty were intelligent and conscious of what they were doing. Cheeky even. I don’t think they would appreciate Toby of Survival International telling them what to think or how to behave or his opinion that they should stay permanently in the Jungle.

    I would say that the Jarawa individuals are capable of deciding for themselves. Perhaps that the only people who benefit from enforcing the myth of isolation or attempting to recreate an ancient reality would be organisations like Survival International.

    Its a harsh assessment I admit, but I would urge you to think deeply upon it

  19. Sorry Toby, but can you clear another mild spot of confusion for me?
    You mention only 10 years of peaceful contact in your above post, but as per your own organisation’s article on its website
    your organisation states that the Jarawa have had friendly contact since 1974. That would make it 35 years by my calculations, a more than significant divergence from the 10 years claimed above.
    Maybe its just a higher level of semantics that escapes me – but 35 years of ‘friendly contact’ with only 10 years of ‘peaceful contact’ doesn’t make much sense to me.

  20. Thanks for the interesting discussion, which I’m trying to read in an open-minded spirit as an amateur in this field.

    Where I do have some expertise though, is on the spread of infectious disease, so I would like to respond to Paul Markham’s “Diseases such as measles etc have not caused any mortality amongst the Jarawa in the past 10 years of contact, as per online postings, which suggests to me that they are nowhere near as vulnerable as Survival International claims they are”.

    The point about infectious diseases is that it only needs one case in a previously unexposed population to lead to disaster. Cliff et al in “Measles: an historical geography’ (1993) recount how the King of Fiji caught measles when visiting Australia in 1875; on his return to the island this led to a outbreak in which around 27% of Fiji’s 150,000 population died.

    The threat of previously unexperienced diseases to isolated populations is very real.

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