Friday, February 12, 2016


Uncontacted Amazon Tribe: First ever aerial footage 



This video is dreamlike. That's the only description I can come up with for it.  As you watch it, you are flying along in a small plane, accompanying Jose Carlos Morales, who works for Brazil's Department of Indian Affairs. And, you are flying over some of those vast tracks of still undisturbed Amazon rain forest that you hear about in documentaries like this. True, it's something of a clich√©, but this video offers something very special.

Actress Gillian Anderson's voice over explains to us that the film crew riding along with Morales is using powerful zoom lenses that will allow them to film in detail from a kilometer away to minimize disturbance. And Morales goes on to explain that they are on something of a mission, because if support for the people who are the object of his and the film crew’s quest is to be gotten  from the outside world, such images will be invaluable. "One image of them has more impact than a thousand reports" he explains in his Brazilian Portuguese. Slowly, what he is talking about comes into focus and we begin to see  more than trees below, we see thatched huts and smoldering cook fires, we see patches of cultivated bananas and manioc. And then.... emerging from the covering foliage, peering up at us in our airplane, we see the people of the forest. They are looking skyward in our direction... peaceful, but curious. They are comfortably looking at something that I suppose, they have grown just a little used to seeing; modern man in his little, white thing circling overhead for a short while.

This is truly a magic moment. As I've come to understand by reading the video’s accompanying text and doing a little Google searching beyond, these forest dwellers have been known to the Brazilian Authorities and anthropologists for a good while, but none have made a move to actually contact these folks; to walk into their territory and let them know who it is who observes them periodically from above. And to (perish the thought) bring them up to date on  the past few thousand  years of human history that has somehow eluded them in the leafy,  remote cul-de-sac where they’ve always lived.)

For these forest dwellers the brief moments when they see planes above must come as a curiosity, something out of their collective experience and knowledge base. Who knows what meaning they attach to it? Their body language as they watch the sky, though, is neither threatened or threatening; they are simply fascinated as they stand there riveted,  knowing surely that something important, as well as out of the ordinary, is going on.

I, too, am riveted watching all of this (with that beautiful music track behind it) unfold on my computer screen. There is something uncommonly pure about the scene we are shown. And for some reason  I feel especially calmed by this video. It is uplifting to me to know that there are still people living in the (here's my high school English course kicking in) Forest Prime Evil. YES! There ARE still people who gather and hunt their food, who make their houses from what they find growing around them, people who have never dreamed of mortgages or commuter traffic, or video game addiction, or have even the remotest inkling that so many of us (9,036,348, including my my viewing of this video) are looking back at them on YouTube as they stare up into the sky and cameras. 

Magic Moment indeed, as the stares of the naive and innocent below are returned by the sophisticated and benevolent above, who want nothing more than to protect and shield them from intrusion and harm and the polluting influence of people who come from my jungle. When I see these half naked people, real flesh and blood as I am, I sigh at the sight of them, something that instantly puts me in touch with what my tribe has lost in the struggle for all it has gained. Via YouTube we are given a very special glimpse of fortunates who have yet to be thrown out of the Garden of Eden.

Alas, as both Jose and Gillian explain, illegal loggers have begun to move into the area and unlike the film crew along for the ride, who shoot the natives with cameras, the loggers are there to cut down and remove the very environment these people, object of my sighs,  live in and they will not hesitate to shoot them with guns in order to do that.

Jose explains further "I know this footage is the only way to convince the rest of the world that they are here" and Gillian explains further that outsiders will bring viruses that may wipe the tribe out completely. And that, dear friends, is the reason this video was made and posted: to inform and elicit support and marshal others to do something to help prevent this; a moving example of YouTube tapped to provide a perfect platform for social activism. Ah, life in the Internet age!

PS – As I mentioned, the video (produced some 4 or 5 years before I viewed it) moved me to do a little online research and this took me to the website of the wonderful organization Survival where one is presented with the full, big picture story of what is going on with the survival of the Amazon’s indigenous people, along with opportunities to help this most important cause:  http://www.uncontactedtribes.org/  

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