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Indigenous Tribes from Around the World

Updated June 5, 2019 210.4k views18 items

Indigenous peoples of the world still live in some of the most isolated areas anywhere on earth, resisting contact with the outside world and staying free of societal influences. Uncontacted people live in a precarious balance, striving to maintain their own freedom while being threatened by an outside world they choose to avoid. Logging, ranching, oil exploration, gold mining, and tourism are all threats to indigenous tribes - meaning fewer of these tribes are able to survive.

When the outside world has made contact with these tribes, the results are often disastrous. Violent conflict with illegal loggers and gold prospectors has led to dozens of deaths, and since the tribespeople have no natural immunity, when they do make contact with settled societies, they are extremely vulnerable to common illnesses. There have also been incidents of tourists and photographers attack or shot with arrows by tribes who don't understand why they're being bothered. These tribes live in an increasingly dangerous position.

Here is a list of some of the most fascinating uncontacted peoples and interesting indigenous tribes still out there, and what we know about them at this point.
  • Sentinelese

    Living on the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, the Sentinelese people are likely the most isolated tribe on the planet. They're thought to be descended from the first human beings to come out of Africa 60,000 years ago. They're extremely hostile to outsiders, sending aid workers and documentarians away with volleys of arrows.. But they're also a hearty people, able to make metal weapons and tools, and are in excellent health.

    Officials in India worried that the Sentinelese had been wiped out by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, but the tribe survived and refused all offers of help.
  • Awá-Guajá

    The Awá-Guajá are an endangered indigenous group of people currently living in the eastern section of the Amazon in Brazil. Of an estimated 350 members of the tribe, around 100 have had absolutely no contact with the outside world. Due to their hunter-gatherer lifestyle, skirmishes with loggers, and encroachment by cattle companies, they've been called "Earth's most threatened tribe." The group has viciously fought with loggers, who retaliated by killing a tribe child.
  • Jarawa

    The Jarawa are another isolated people living on India's Andaman Islands. They had a 200 year history of isolation, despite encroachment by settlers and builders. After a large road was built near their settlement, they began to make contact with settled people, formally visiting other settlements in 1997. They were immediately hit by a measles outbreak, showing the danger inherent to isolation.

    Contacting, taking pictures with, or speaking with Jarawa people is now illegal, but numerous sightseeing trips do it anyway. There are probably about 400 Jarawa total.
  • Yana

    Photo: Saxton T. Pope / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    In 1911, a 50-year-old man emerged from the trees near Oroville, CA. He was discovered to be the last of the Yana people of California, the last Native American tribe surviving into modern times. He had lived completely outside of European or American culture, and as per tribal custom, he refused to give his name to an enemy. He was soon named "Ishi", the Yana word for "man."

    Ishi taught researchers an enormous amount about his culture, and showed his doctor how to make arrows and hunt in the Yana way. But less than five years later, Ishi, who had no natural immunity, died of TB.