A clan of Mashco-Piro Indians, a small tribe of previously isolated Amazon Indians in Peru, have been appearing along the riverbank in Madre de Dios with a message to tourists and outsiders—Leave us alone.
According to a Huffington Post article, Carlos Soria, a professor at Lima’s Catholic University who ran Peru’s park protection agency last year said the tribe is believed to number in the hundreds with the clan appearing at the river numbering close to 60, with 25 adults. The tribe lives in the Manu National Park.
Survival International who works to protect the isolated tribes of the Amazon said in a press release, the recent sightings are a result of gas and oil projects and illegal logging in the area.
The clan members have been blamed for two attacks along the riverbanks that involved bow-and-arrows since they were first seen last May, reported the Huffington Post.
The most recent attack came when a lethal arrow was fired at Nicolas “Shaco” Flores – a member of a different tribe looking to make formal contact with the Mashco-Piro according to a BBC article.
This recent attack according to Survival International shows the dangers of trying to contact tribes that remain isolated. Flores, an indigenous Matsigenka, had been leaving food and gifts for the Mashco-Piro Indians for the past 20 years.
“Shaco’s death is a tragedy: he was a kind, courageous and knowledgeable man. He believed he was helping the Mashco-Piro. And yet in this tragic incident, the Mashco-Piro have once again expressed their adamant desire to be left alone,” said Glenn Shepard, an anthropologist and friend of Flores at his blog.
Spanish archaeologist Diego Cortijo, a member of the Spanish Geographical Society, said Flores was able to communicate with the Mashco-Piro because he spoke two related dialects, and that he often brought them supplies that included machetes and cooking pots according to the Huffington Post. Flores death now makes reaching an understanding with the tribe complicated.
“The problem is that ‘Shaco’ was the only person who could talk to them,” Cortijo said. “Now that he’s dead it’s impossible to make contact.”
Peruvian expert on uncontacted tribes, Beatriz Huertas, expressed to Survival how delicate and complex this situation is. “Contact could happen at any time,” Huertas said, “we must implement preventative measures and a contingency plan with local authorities as soon as possible to ensure this does not happen again.”