How to save an Amazonian tribe

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 8/8/2014

Wading across an Amazonian river, naked save for loin straps and face paint, the tribesmen who recently emerged from isolation in Brazil have stirred up the world’s imagination and concern. It is the most dramatic contact with such a remote group in more than a decade, and the video of their encounter with government officials near the border with Peru went viral after it was released last week.

But after initial amazement, the focus has now turned to the difficult task of keeping the group safe and free from disease, as well as trying to understand why they were driven to cross the threshold into modern society – a step that has often proved fatal in the past.

Largely unheard of until last month and still unidentified, this community of about 50 hunter-gatherers who roam the Upper Envira river region of Acre state has now attracted global attention. The Brazilian government’s indigenous people’s authority, known as Funai, has dispatched a team of ethnologists, linguists and doctors to receive them and prepare for a possible vaccination campaign against the “white-man’s flu” that has wiped out other tribes.

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