October 18, 2019

In Search of Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes

OPC member Scott Wallace tells the extraordinary tale of a journey into the deepest recesses of the Amazon to track one of the planet’s last uncontacted indigenous tribes. This is a gripping account of adventure and survival, in which he brings the audience straight into the depths of the rainforest, sharing its secrets from the inside out, as we move ever closer to a possible encounter with the mysterious flecheiros – or “People of the Arrow” – a seldom-glimpsed tribe of deft archers known to defend their lands with showers of deadly arrows before melting back into the forest shadows.

While on assignment for National Geographic (cover story, August 2003) Mr. Wallace followed the brooding, charismatic explorer Sydney Possuelo on a quixotic mission: penetrate the jungle redoubts of the Arrow People, gather crucial information about them, and return to civilization without contacting the tribe. As head of Brazil’s Department of Isolated Indians, Possuelo seeks to protect the Arrow People and their rainforest homeland from the ravages of the advancing frontier. But the information he needs to safeguard them can only be gleaned by entering a world of darkness and danger beneath the forest canopy, to seek out the hostile tribesmen on the one hand while trying to avoid them on the other.

Their 34-member expedition included 20 Indians from three different tribes, in varying states of acculturation and accommodation with the outside world. Their stories and perspectives also inform the narrative. In this lecture, he draws on lessons from anthropology and the Amazon’s own convulsed history to uncover clues as to who the Arrow People might be, why they seem to want to have nothing to do with us, and why Possuelo fights so passionately to see that their wishes are respected. Along the way, we get an intimate feel for the primeval forest and the dazzling array of flora and fauna it harbors. This is a tale of Lewis&Clark-era exploration, one of high adventure and survival, tailor-made for the Explorers Club audience.

Scott Wallace (FN07) is a journalist and photographer. His assignments for National Geographic include treks in the Amazon and the Andes, as well as through the Pamir of Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor with Dr. George Schaller. He is the author of the forthcoming book, The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes (Crown, October 2011). His work will be featured in the Fall 2011 Explorers Journal.

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