In an age of mod-cons, smartphones and constant connectivity, it is perhaps hard to envision a lifestyle of isolation and co-dependence on a small community that, like you, have shunned the modern world. That being said, there are still people in this world that live in tribes away from the towering skyscrapers and hustle and bustle of modern living.
In a world of GPS and satellite tracking, it is amazing to think that there are still communities uncontacted by or isolated from the modern world and yet there are. Here we look at some of these isolated tribes, their ways of living and how our lifestyles are bringing about the end of theirs.
The Sentinelese are indigenous peoples of the Andaman islands in the bay of Bengal are among the last people to remain virtually untouched and uncontacted by modern civilization and as such little is known about them as they have only been observed by a distance and contact attempts in the late 20th century were not successful.
So wary of the outside world are the Sentinelese that they do not hesitate to use weapons on outsiders such as spears and arrows and their numbers are not known with estimates being between 50 and 500. It is thought they remain essentially a hunter-gatherer society that fishes and hunts wildlife with no evidence of agriculture in place.
A sub-group of the Chut ethnic group, the Ruc reside in Central Vietnam and were first discovered by North Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam war where they were living in caves, deep in the jungle in eastern Quảng Bình province. Convinced to leave their caves by the soldiers, the Ruc still favor an existence that sees them flee from others into the forests.
The Ruc have animistic beliefs that see them imbue elements of nature, such as trees and rivers, with spirits whilst they also practice magic. Despite their reticence to be approached by the outside world, the Vietnamese government has tried to relocate these people several times due to corporate interests but so far they have resisted.
The Ayoreo people are indigenous to the Gran Chaco region that spans parts of Bolivia and Paraguay and although many have tried to adapt to city living in their respective nations, the Totobiesogode remain in voluntary isolation with laws put in place to prevent contact with them in order to protect them from disease and uphold their culture.
That being said, cattle farming and deforestation, sale and allocation of Ayoreo territory, searches for oil, missionaries seeking contact, illegal collection of territory resources, and violation of territory by various groups all threaten the Totobiesogode way of life. Amongst their beliefs is the one that no one should die above ground and so, when nearing the end of a life, a person will be buried alive.
Found in Ecuador and with around 4,000 members of their tribe, the Waodani believe that the spiritual and physical worlds are the same and both intersect as one. They also follow an animistic belief system and consider the forests and land sacred. Attempts to contact these hunter-gatherer tribes only resulted in them going further into the jungles of Ecuador to set up settlements away from modern society.
Despite the image of a peaceful community, around 60% of deaths within the tribe come from murder, in part led by the belief that their spirits will live on.
Living along the Rip Pure river in Columbia, the Carabayo live in longhouses known as malako that sleep many members of the tribe in one dwelling. Although intermittent contact with the tribe has been established over the past 400 years, attacks from slave traders and rubber extractors have led the tribe to seek out even more isolation from the outside world.
In fact, so often have they been attacked the Columbian government has declared protection for these people in a decree which guarantees uncontacted peoples such as the Carabayo the rights to their voluntary isolation, their traditional territories, and reparations if they face violence from outsiders.
Found in the Orinoco basin of Venezuela, the Piaroa believe that competition is spiritually evil and so they laud cooperation and have no definitive leaders. As such, they are a rare example of a functioning anarchist society. Despite this apparent peaceful existence, they are often in conflict with other tribes over control of clay pits for their tribal pottery.
With around 14,000 members to their tribe, they are one of the least isolated on this list but still maintain some distance in order to preserve their way of living.
One of the most isolated tribes around today, it is known that the Toromona tribe reside in Bolivia and that is about it. The Bolivian government isn't even sure where they can be found exactly and so have sectioned off parts of the Madidi National Park for them so that their way of life is not disturbed and so they do not come in contact with outside disease.
Helicopter flights and sightings of these people are the only reason that their existence has become known.
A group of people who live in Brazil and parts of French Guiana, the Wayampi subside mostly on crops such as potatoes and yams. Although they've had some contact from missionaries in the 18th-century but outside of that they have rejected outsiders and have been known to even reject members of their own tribe who have had contact with the outside world.
This virulent isolationism is interesting in that it is rare to find tribes who are aware of the outside world but want so little to do with it.
Also found on the Andaman islands, the Jarawa managed to keep their secrecy for a relatively long time and Since they have largely shunned interactions with outsiders, many particulars of their society, culture and traditions are poorly understood, however, recent developments on the island have led to increased interactions with others.
The Great Andaman Trunk Road cut through their native lands and brought a rise in people and tourists to the area and so outbreaks of measles and other disease have often been deadly.
There are an estimated 15 uncontacted tribes living in the Peruvian Amazon and the Yora are one of those tribes and they remained isolated until the 18th-century. Little is known about the Yora, and many of these other tribes, as they remain deep in the Amazon rainforest but their lands, on which they hunt, fish and farm, are becoming increasingly under threat.
Today, five reserves have been created for uncontacted tribes, and Peru has ratified laws that uphold the tribes’ right to be left alone but illegal loggers, miners and oil drillers ignore these laws and often cause trouble by exposing these indigenous tribes to Western diseases.