Remember those body-painted, bow-and-arrow-wielding warriors who some of us thought might be a hoax of some kind? Well, apparently the tribe is real, and actually hasn’t had direct contact with the developed world. The only part that was made up was the part about them being previously unknown. It turns out they were “discovered” several decades ago, and an activist who works for the Brazilian Indian Protection Agency, called Funai, sought them out by air with a camera, on the logic that disturbing them would prove the value of leaving them undisturbed.
Survival International, the organisation that released the pictures along with Funai, conceded yesterday that Funai had known about this nomadic tribe for around two decades. It defended the disturbance of the tribe saying that, since the images had been released, it had forced neighbouring Peru to re-examine its logging policy in the border area where the tribe lives, as a result of the international media attention. Activist and former Funai president Sydney Possuelo agreed that — amid threats to their environment and doubt over the existence of such tribes – it was necessary to publish them.
But the revelation that the existence of the tribe was already established will provoke awkward questions over why a decision was made to try to photograph them — a form of contact in itself — in order to make a political point.