The Unconquered:In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes is an extraordinary tale of a journey into the most remote regions of the Amazon to locate a mysterious tribe–the flecherios–the Arrow People. Scott Wallace, on assignment for National Geographic, joins the 2002 expedition led by Sydney Possuelo, a leader in the National Indian Foundation of Brazil, whose goal is to protect uncontacted Indian tribes and to protect the large tract of unspoiled rainforest that has been set aside for the survival of these tribes. The trek is a grueling 3 month journey, often undertaken with insufficient food or clean water as they travel by boat, canoe and foot through the dense jungle, surrounded by dangers in the form of poisonous snakes and insects, caimans, piranhas, and deadly jaguars. Human dangers also face the men in the form of drug runners, illegal miners and loggers, and the elusive Arrow People, whose ability to shoot their arrows with deadly accuracy then vanish into the jungle strikes fear into all of the expedition members. Wallace describes the journey in fascinating detail, but besides telling a tale of adventure and exploration, he discusses the plight of indigenous tribes, both in the past and the present. The result of contact with people from the outside have usually resulted in the death and destruction of these isolated tribes. Possuelo’s approach is significantly different from contacts with tribes throughout history, made with luring natives with beads, glass or knives and other tools. “[He] sought nothing, and in turn gave little. He was just passing through. He didn’t want locals to fret, didn’t want to uncover their secrets, didn’t want to know much of anything except to know that they were doing fine…What he offered was at once nothing and everything, something so huge and intangible that they’d never know he’d even given it to them–the chance to endure, to survive another day, to replicate their way of life, a way of life that had all but vanished from the rest of the planet”.
Wallace has written a profound and revealing portrait of the last great wilderness on earth and of the forces working both for and against it’s destruction. This is a thought-provoking look at our relationship with nature and our responsibility to allow these indigenous tribes to exist in their chosen manner and in their familiar environment without exploitation by the outside world.