Media Fooled: 'Lost Tribe' Not so Lost as Previously Reported

Remember last month when the "amazing" photos of the "lost Indian tribe" in the Brazilian jungle were making the rounds? Remember how every single news agency in the world jumped on this "astounding" report? They were a "lost tribe," they were an "uncontacted" people, they were shooting arrows at the "big bird" and dressed in war paint. All manner of claims were made about these people, but many reports seemed to claim that these photos were intended to "prove" they exist and that the photographs were the result of a chance encounter.

Turns out that there was no "chance" to it and no one seriously doubted these people existed at all. Further, the man who took the photos knew almost exactly where to go to get those pictures, so "lost tribe" is hardly the correct terminology bywhich to describe these people.

What we have with this story is a perfect example of the media jumping on a story without bothering to clarify all the facts. In fact, the newest news of the incident is going to the other extreme and calling the whole incident a "hoax." But the revelations made by the photographer do not really reveal an outright hoax as much as evidence that the original story was only a little misleading.

To clarify, the original story made it seem as if Indigenous tribes expert, José Carlos Meirelles came across this tribe by accident as he flew above them and that his important photos revealed "proof" that they existed. Now, however, we are told by Mr. Meirelles that he had previous information, coordinates and maps that he followed to "accidentally" find the little settlement and that he had known of these people's existence previously, as did others.

So, this week we are told it was a "hoax."

THE man behind photos of warriors from an "undiscovered" Amazon tribe that were beamed around the world has admitted it was a hoax.

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.

The “accidental” find wasn’t so accidental it turns out.

According to his account, the Brazilian state of Acre offered him the use of an aircraft for three days.

"I had years of GPS co-ordinates," he said.

Mr Meirelles had another clue to the tribe's precise location.

"A friend of mine sent me some Google Earth co-ordinates and maps that showed a strange clearing in the middle of the forest and asked me what that was,"he said.

So, while he did not find them by accident, and they weren't a "lost tribe" he did not perpetrate an outright hoax because these people do, indeed, exist and are a basically uncontacted people whose habitat might be endangered by modern encroachment.

What we end up with, though, is the news misreporting this story twice. It's just a sad example of how one really shouldn't trust anything in the media!

But, let's look at some of the new quotes by this supposed Indigenous tribes expert, Meirelles.

Meirelles said when he saw the grass huts he found them using his maps and coordinates previously recorded. He also made the interesting statement about how his flight was received by the natives.

"When the women hear the plane above, they run into the forest, thinking it's a big bird,' he said. 'This is such a remote area, planes don't fly over it.'

He knows this how? If they are uncontacted, how do we know that the women think the plane is a giant bird about to swoop down and eat them? How do we know what they think about planes?

Then Meirelles makes another claim about these people.

"Because painted red means they are ready for war, which to me says they are happy and healthy defending their territory."

First of all, if he only flew over these people once as he claims, how did the men have the time to get "ready for war" and get their bodies all smeared with the red war paint? Secondly, and once again remembering these are supposed to be uncontacted people, how do we even know red painted bodies means they are "ready for war"? If no one has contacted these people and observed their rituals and conventions, how do we have any idea what the red paint might represent?

Also how does anyone know these people don't want to be contacted? How are we sure leaving them in some prehistoric condition is really the right thing to do?

We don't actually. All the assumptions that José Carlos Meirelles has of these people is born out of his own arrogance of being a so-called "indigenous tribes expert" not on reality. After all, if all the tribes are contacted and modernized, then there would be no need for José Carlos Meirelles' services!

One thing is sure, there can be no doubt that these people live short and brutal lives. They are sure to have little by way of emergency health care and it is possible that their women lead harsh, oppressed lives. To be sure, I am not advocating we immediately bring them McDonald's, TV and tetanus shots, but to assume we know what is best for them in any way at all is arrogance on our part. My guess is, that if they wanted to be contacted, they know where to find us!

So, the real hoax is that we as modern humans know what is best for these people better than they do.

(Photo credit: Reuters)