About Us

There are over 150 million tribal people living in more than 60 countries worldwide. Of these, at least 70 'uncontacted' tribes continue to live with little or no interaction with outsiders.

Tribal Survival is a UK registered charity established in 2014, (charity number: 1155155).

Our Mission

The need for Tribal Survival

There are over 150 million tribal people living in more than 60 countries worldwide. Of these, at least 70 ‘uncontacted’ tribes continue to live with little or no interaction with outsiders. The aim of Tribal Survival is to promote the health and wellbeing of remote indigenous people across the globe. At the same time, we encourage tribes to retain their traditional way of life. This, we believe, will help to ensure that indigenous traditions, languages and cultures are preserved.

Tribal Survival supports endangered tribes in Asia, South America and Africa, with a focus on those in Indonesia.

The plight of tribal populations is well documented, with ever increasing resource pressures placing stress upon the lives of those who are fighting to retain their ancestral lands, customs and traditions. Within these societies, illnesses and diseases that are easily treatable and preventable with access to basic medication cause distress and even death.

Tribal Survival believe that the provision of life-saving, essential medication at no cost can enhance quality of life and extend life expectancy.

Background

Charles Montanaro earned a degree in Anthropology from Durham University in 1976. Since 2004, he has travelled to jungles all around the world in search of undiscovered indigenous people or tribes living in remote areas that have had little or no contact with the Western world.

His first expedition was to the Amazon rainforest in South America. He went hunting with the Huaorani in Ecuador – who describe themselves as the fiercest warriors in the Amazon – and then to live with the Yanomami of Venezuela and the Emberá of Panama, among many others.

His next adventure was to live with the San People of Botswana, one of the oldest known cultures, and to live with the Australian Aborigines in Kakadu.

Indonesia has been the focus in more recent years: the Mentawai of Siberut (Sumatra); the Dani and Yali of the Beliem Valley (Irian Jaya) and the Kombai and Korowai (West Papua), stone-age tribes still practising cannibalism who live in tree houses.

Missionaries

During these trips into the depth of the jungle, Charles has seen first-hand the practices and impact of missionaries on indigenous peoples. For example, Shell Oil discovered oil in Ecuador in the 1940s where the Huaorani lived. The tribe did not take kindly to their new visitors and killed several workers which halted oil production. In response, Shell encouraged missionaries to evangelise the Huaorani – five American missionaries made contact in 1955. They too were unwelcome visitors who were subsequently killed. Their efforts continued, however, resulting in the displacement of thousands of natives and a collapse of their culture (which eventually allowed Texaco to drill for oil). “There were only two diseases before the outsiders came,” said Penti, the chief of the Huaorani, “wounds and pain”. Today, new forms of disease are prevalent.

Charles has heard many examples of missionaries flying over vast expanses of jungle looking for evidence of habitation (where trees have been cleared). They then drop metal utensils into the clearing hoping to capture a native and bring them back to their church for indoctrination, before returning them to their people. This traumatic first contact has had a devastating impact.

Missionaries may offer medicine and education, but typically only if the indigenous peoples abandon their cultural beliefs and their ways of life. It is not unusual for missionaries to insist on attendance at church each Sunday and on wearing Western clothing. The price of medicine is often the breakdown of indigenous culture, traditions and beliefs.

Tribes Visited

The Huaorani are an Indigenous people from the Amazonian Region of Ecuador, who have marked differences from other ethnic groups from Ecuador.

Their ancestral lands are located between the Curaray and Napo rivers, about 50 miles (80 km) south of El Coca. These homelands—approximately 120 miles (190 km) wide and 75 to 100 miles (120 to 160 km) from north to south—are threatened by oil exploration and illegal logging practices.

In the last 40 years, they have shifted from a hunting and gathering society to living mostly in permanent forest settlements. As many as five communities—the Tagaeri, the Huiñatare, the Oñamenane, and two groups of the Taromenane—have rejected all contact with the outside world and continue to move into more isolated areas.

The Emberá are an indigenous people of Panama and Colombia. There are approximately 33,000 people living in Panama and 50,000 in Colombia who identify as Emberá. The Emberá are a riverine people, historically building their houses along the banks of rivers.

Fish (bedá) are an important staple of the Emberá diet along with plantains (patá), and rivers play a central role in daily life for fishing, bathing, transport, and many domestic chores. Boats have also played important roles in Emberá tradition and cosmology. The craft of constructing dugout canoes (hampá) was historically a very significant skill for Emberá men, at times serving as a rite of passage or prerequisite for marriage according to oral history.

The Kombai are Papuan people of Melanesia living in the Indonesian province of Papua in Western New Guinea. The Kombai generally live in huts, with each clan living in a large treehouse, although most activities are done outside.

Each clan guards its treehouse and territory with bows and arrows. In certain areas of the forest, no clans build treehouses or occupy as these places are reserved for the spirits. The Kombai tradition of building treehouses comes from the fact that treehouses are easier to defend in times of war with these tribes, or headhunting tribes which used to terrorize Kombai lands.

For food, the Kombai hunt pigs and other forest animals, fish, eat the larvae of beetles and plants and eat sago from sago palms. The Kombai cook meat by heating stones under a fire, wrapping the meat in large leaves, and placing the hot stones on top, until the meat is cooked. Fishing is done by building a small dam on a stream, beating the poison out of toxic roots into the stream, forcing the fish up. The fish are then easily captured. As food is abundant in the forest, none is stored.

The Korowai, also called the Kolufo, are the people who live in south-eastern West Papua in the Indonesian province of Papua, close to the border with Papua New Guinea. They number about 3,000. According to The Daily Telegraph, “Until the late 1970s, when anthropologists embarked on a study of the tribe, the Korowai were unaware of the existence of any peoples other than themselves”.

The majority of the Korowai clans live in tree houses on their isolated forested territory. Since 1980, some have moved into the recently opened villages of Yaniruma at the Becking River banks (Kombai–Korowai area), Mu, and Mbasman (Korowai–Citak area). In 1987, a village was opened in Manggél, in Yafufla (1988), Mabül at the banks of the Eilanden River (1989), and Khaiflambolüp (1998). The village absenteeism rate is still high, because of the relatively long distance between the settlements and the food (sago) resources. The Korowai smoke natural tobacco but do not drink alcohol.

The Yanomami are a group of approximately 38,000 indigenous people who live in some 200–250 villages in the Amazon rainforest on the border between Venezuela and Brazil.

The first report of the Yanomami to the Northern world is from 1654. From approximately 1630 to 1720, the other river-based indigenous societies who lived in the same region were wiped out or reduced as a result of slave-hunting expeditions by the conquistadors and bandeirantes.

Groups of Yanomami live in villages consisting of their children and extended families that usually contain between 50 and 400 people. In this largely communal system, the entire village lives under a common roof called the shabono. Shabonos are built from raw materials from the surrounding rainforest, such as leaves, vines, and tree trunks. They are susceptible to heavy damage from rains, winds, and insect infestation. As a result, new shabonos are constructed every 4 to 6 years.

The Yanomami can be classified as foraging horticulturalists, depending heavily on rainforest resources; they use slash-and-burn horticulture, grow bananas, gather fruit, and hunt animals and fish. Crops compose up to 75% of the calories in the Yanomami diet. Protein is supplied by wild resources obtained through gathering, hunting, and fishing. When the soil becomes exhausted, Yanomami frequently move to avoid areas that have become overused, a practice known as shifting cultivation.

The Nenets, also known as Samoyed, are a Samoyedic ethnic group native to northern Arctic Russia, Russian Far North. According to the latest census in 2010, there were 44,857 Nenets in the Russian Federation, most of them living in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (Nenets Autonomous Okrug and Taymyrsky Dolgano-Nenetsky District) stretching along the coastline of the Arctic Ocean near the Arctic Circle between Kola and Taymyr peninsulas. They are reindeer herdsmen.

Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic and subarctic regions of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska. The Inuit languages are part of the Eskimo–Aleut languages also known as Inuit-Yupik-Unangan and also as Eskaleut. Inuit Sign Language is a critically endangered language isolate used in Nunavut.

Inuit live throughout most of Northern Canada in the territory of Nunavut, Nunavik in the northern third of Quebec, Nunatsiavut and NunatuKavut in Labrador, and in various parts of the Northwest Territories, particularly around the Arctic Ocean, in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. With the exception of NunatuKavut, these areas are known, primarily by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, as Inuit Nunangat.

Greenlandic Inuit are descendants of Thule migrations from Canada by 1100 CE. Although Greenland withdrew from the European Communities in 1985, Inuit of Greenland are Danish citizens and, as such, remain citizens of the European Union.In the United States, the Alaskan Iñupiat are traditionally located in the Northwest Arctic Borough, on the Alaska North Slope, and on Little Diomede Island.

The San peoples (also Saan), or Bushmen, are members of various Khoe, Tuu, or Kx?a-speaking indigenous hunter-gatherer cultures that are the first cultures of Southern Africa and whose territories span Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and South Africa. In 2017, Botswana was home to approximately 63,500 San people, which is roughly 2.8% of the country’s population, making it the country with the highest population of San people.

Mentawai (also known as Mentawei and Mentawi) people are the native people of the Mentawai Islands (principally Siberut, Sipura, North Pagai and South Pagai) about 100 miles from West Sumatra province, Indonesia.

They live a semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the coastal and rainforest environments of the islands and are also one of the oldest tribes in Indonesia. The Mentawai population is estimated to be about 64,000. The Mentawai tribe is documented to have migrated from Nias – a northern island – to the Mentawai islands, living in an isolated life for centuries until they were discovered in 1621 by the Dutch.

The ancestors of the indigenous Mentawai people are believed to have first migrated to the region somewhere between 2000 to 500 BCE. The people are characterized by their heavy spirituality, body art and their tendency to sharpen their teeth, a practice they feel makes one beautiful. Mentawai tend to live in unison and peace with the nature around them because they believe that all things in nature have some kind of spiritual essence.

There has to be a better way

This is what led to the foundation of Tribal Survival. Tribal Survival offers Western medicine and healthcare at no cost and with no strings attached. Our charity actively encourages the retention and celebration of indigenous culture and traditions.

A vast number of tribal people are resistant to the ever encroaching globalised world. Tribal Survival supports their right to self-determination and the preservation of their cultural heritage. However, an inherent limitation in the isolation they crave is the reduction in the speed in which these societies can adapt to the ever evolving threat of illness and disease.

As a result, millions of tribal people spend a significant amount of their lives in pain or suffering and often life expectancy is considerably lower than that in the developed world. The plight of these people is seldom acknowledged. Tribal Survival believes that modern scientific developments in medicine can improve the lives of marginalised tribal people without imposing on the cultural values these societies hold dear. We have much to learn from them.

We take Western doctors to spend time with remote indigenous communities and provide medical treatment. With the support of The World Health Organisation we completed a five year programme to eradicate Lymphatic Filariasis (a life threatening disease) among the Korowai of West Papua. There are many more communities in need of our help.