My name is Jeff Hart and I am a fourth year student at the University of British Columbia studying Ecological Anthropology. We are currently applying our studies and course concepts to the recent proposal by the Natural Museum of History to go into the Northern Dry Chaco of Paraguay, a place unchartered by many, to document the biodiversity of plants and animals. However, the Ayoreo Totobiegosode, a group of voluntary isolated indigenous people, reside in this area, and those who explore the Chaco for the sake of biodiversity could potentially, though unwillingly and sometimes unknowingly, come in contact with these uncontacted people. There are currently over 100 indigenous groups in the world that remain uncontacted, and the Ayoreo are one of them.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Mennonite farmers went into the area to colonize it only to find the Ayoreo. They engaged in violent conflict with the Mennonites, as the Ayoreo saw it as their land. Around 1980, Mennonite missionaries tried to acculturate the Ayoreo and bring them out of the forest and into society. However, they unknowingly brought many diseases and viruses common to individuals in Western society to the Ayoreo, killing over 100 in only a week and a half. Some managed to flee back into the forest, while some pursed a life in Paraguayan society (which for many consisted of living on the streets because they had no knowledge of modern society lifeways). Thus, there is now a split in their tribal organization, some contacted some uncontacted, and many have succumbed to the diseases brought to them from the Mennonites.
Furthermore, a recent boom in the value of beef (arguably credited to the fast food industry) in today's economy has led companies foreign companies, like the Brazilian ranching company Yaguarete Porá, to deforest areas of the Northern Chaco to make way for cattle ranches. The Ayoreo's land is under attack, and they have very few who are helping them.
Is this peachy? What do you think? For more information, please check out our class blog, as well as Survival International's section on the Ayoreo Totobiegosode. We need to bring this issue out into the open so something can be done to protect their land and those who live on it.