Amazon basin, Brazil: I was flying over the Amazon alongside an Ashaninka chief who was searching for illegal logging on their lands.It was a bad flight. Grey skies and heavy winds, over a sea of unbroken forest – no sign of humanity all the way to the horizon. Suddenly, down below us, we saw a spot of clearing and this group of isolated Indians. The way they raised their spears and bows against us, it felt like I was witnessing the last line of human resistance against the world the rest of us have made.
Three months after this photo was published, the same group of Indians made their first formal contact with the Ashaninka people and Brazil’s national Indian agency (Funai). They said encroaching non-Indians had burned their villages – which lie in a border region with known drug trafficking and illegal logging activity. Immediately after meeting the outsiders, several of the Indians fell ill. Funai says the situation is under control: It provided flu shots and has reopened a local base that it abandoned three years earlier, following an attack by cartel gunmen.
Indians who are considered uncontacted by anthropologists react to a plane flying over their community in the Amazon basin near the Xinane river in Brazil’s Acre State, near the border with Peru, March 25, 2014.