‘Lost tribe’ confirmed in Colombian Amazon

The March 2013 issue of Smithsonian magazine offers the first account of a flight that confirmed the presence of an isolated indigenous tribe in a remote part of the Colombian Amazon. In 2011 Colombian anthropologist Roberto Franco and photographer CristĂłbal von Rothkirch went in search of an “uncontacted” tribe rumored to live in a tract of rainforest between the Caquetá and Putumayo rivers. During a flyover they spotted a maloca—communal hut—in a region with no other human habitation, confirming the existence of the group. A subsequent flyover found four more indigenous structures. The thatch longhouses are thought to be belong to two indigenous groups, the Yuri and the PassĂ©. The groups, which apparently fled to the area to escape the abuses of the early 20th century rubber trade, are believed to be the last isolated tribes in Colombia’s Amazon.

Isolated and uncontacted indigenous people in Colombia are afforded the right to isolation, the right to their traditional territories, and reparations in case of violence under legal decree #4633, signed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in December 2011. That measure specifically protects such groups—which may be voluntarily isolated—from unwanted contact. (Mongabay, Feb. 23)