Peruvian Government Reaching Out to Isolated Amazon Tribe
07/28/2015 AT 10:15 AM EDT
Outreach to isolated or "uncontacted" tribes, even with good intentions, can be problematic because the tribes haven't developed immunity to common diseases. Peru's government is taking this step, however, because other groups have forced its hand: Last September, Adventist missions left food and clothes for the tribe at the border of the National Park, and tour companies advertise "human safaris" that promise glimpses of the tribe along riverbanks.
Anthropologists Robert Walker (of the University of Missouri) and Kim Hill (of Arizona State) wrote an editorial in the journal Science that argues for controlled interaction with tribes like the Mascho Piro, however.
"A well-designed contact can be quite safe, compared to the disastrous outcomes from accidental contacts," they wrote. "But safe contact requires a qualified team of cultural translators and health care professionals that is committed to staying on site for more than a year."
The government's decision is also spurred by increased sightings of the tribe. "In 2014, there were 70 sightings of Mashco Piro on the beaches of the river," Peru's deputy minister of multiculturalism, Patricia Balbuena, told the newspaper El Comercio. In 2015, she said, the tribe has been responsible for five raids on local communities.