- Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (July 24, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307462978
- ISBN-13: 978-0307462978
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 198 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes Paperback – July 24, 2012
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"Wallace's foreboding is matched by his sense of wonder." – New York Times Book Review
"Astonishing." – The London Sunday Times
"A rousing adventure tale." – Wall Street Journal
"Wallace's gripping account takes us upriver to a place very few outsiders have ever seen." – The Boston Globe
"What a great book! An adventure story worthy of Joseph Conrad or Peter Matthiessen." – The Oregonian
“Rousing.” – TIME
"Startlingly novelistic." – Salon.com
“It’s easy to picture The Unconquered being made into a movie.” – Washington Post Express
"Masterful...positively cinematic." – Yale Alumni Magazine
“An eye-opening read…one of the most gripping pieces of non-fiction around…. You’ll swear you are reading a thriller novel.” – Guernica
“Dream assignment or nightmare? An editor from National Geographic asked journalist Scott Wallace to join an expedition into the deepest wilds of the Amazon jungle to find the mysterious ‘People of the Arrow.' While the experience was pretty much a nightmare, it’s a blessing for readers of Wallace's fascinating book.” — Associated Press
“Echoing Amazonia’s earliest European explorers, Wallace crafts a tale that is part gripping adventure story, part window into the unexpected complexities of a developing country where uncontacted tribes stand between a resource-hungry economy and an area abounding in natural wealth.” – Indian Country Today
“Rife with poachers, drug smugglers, illegal gold miners and violent tribes already acquainted with the dangers of modern life…Wallace describes the trek in vivid, if unsettling, terms.” – Maclean’s
“Wallace joins the tribe of jungle-besotted literary types led by Redmond O'Hanlon and David Grann and presents a credibly incredible tale about his voyage past the edge of modernity.” – Huffington Post
"A gripping tale of adventure." – Washingtonian
“While it’s hard to imagine that ‘stone-age’ tribes still persist in a world of cell phones, satellites and social media, it’s even harder to understand how difficult it is to police these isolated regions, to keep them free of outsiders who could endanger a way of life that has nearly disappeared…Wallace’s narrative is apt and penetrating.” – SEJournal
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
SCOTT WALLACE is a journalist whose assignments have taken him from the Himalayas and the streets of Baghdad to the Alaskan Arctic and the Amazon. A former correspondent for the Guardian and Newsweek, he has written for National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, and Harper’s. His photography has appeared in Smithsonian, Outside, and Sports Afield. His television credits include CBS, CNN, and National Geographic Channel.
From the Hardcover edition.
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The book is great on several levels: First and foremost, it is a jungle adventure book. Accessing these tribes is a harrowing process by foot, since they are so deep into the rainforest. Along with the author (who was there as a reporter for National Geographic), there was a photographer, Brazilian citizens working for Brazil's department of Isolated Indians, and members of several "contacted" indigenous tribesmen. The expedition itself was led by a bizarre man named Sydney Possuelo, who has made it his life's mission to protect indigenous tribes from deforestation and crippling exposure to new diseases. Possuelo is a weird man; I spent the entire book trying to figure him out. I alternated between being appalled by him and fascinated by him.
Interspersed throughout the jungle tale is a history of the white man's contact with indigenous Amazonian tribes, a history of the department of Isolated Indians, and a history of the evolving theories on how to approach indigenous tribes. Where previously the government sought to "tame" wild Indians, the policy is now to avoid contact, since contact with the white man inevitably brings about loss of native culture and crippling epidemics of disease. (FYI, phrases like "wild Indians" sound extremely derogatory when I write them here, but the author is actually quite sensitive in his use of language throughout the book - whenever he uses words like "wild," "tamed," or "civilized," he is quick to provide historical context to explain his choice in language). The author's discussion of the issue of contact versus no-contact is even-handed and at times philosophical. He raises some interesting questions that genuinely made me think about both sides of the issue. The plight of the so-called "contacted" tribes is eye-opening, with applications to our own tenuous relationship with Native Americans in the US.
I highly recommend this book. It is an adventure book, complete with monkeys and sloths and fire ants, but also a very eye-opening look at our culture of consumption and the havoc we have wreaked on all the inhabitants of the rainforest - plants, animals, humans.
The argument for protecting them is that contact with modernity (characterized by greed where the white man is the devil) introduces disease, makes the indios bravos dependent on modern contrivances, causes them to turn their backs on ancestral ways and leaves them in a state of poverty. Possuelo (and the author) posit that these people are not "primitive," that their ways are necessary and sufficient to their happy survival, so why disturb them? Plus, there is the added environmental benefit of leaving large tracts of Amazon forest intact as their habitat requires it to be left alone. But I wonder if this isn't just condescension in the same way that missionaries hell-bent on "civilizing" such people are so obviously guilty.
Set aside the disease problem (it is a problem, but it's incidental, solvable with enough effort) and look at the often tragic history of these contacted tribes: they become dependent on modern contrivances, they leave their traditional ways and they are ill-adapted to succeeding in the modern world, leaving them poverty-stricken. This tells us that: they like modernity and it's conveniences, they are perhaps not so interested in the old (arduous) ways, and that they have not been educated thoroughly enough to confront the challenges of modern life. Which way do you want to go with that? Should more effort be put into solving those problems or should more effort be put into preventing these problems from arising? Who should decide? Sydney Possuelo? Brazil's government? Brazil's government can't even take care of its own people. The intuitive answer is that the uncontacted people should decide, but how can an uncontacted group decide between two ways of living when the very act of learning enough to make a decision is, ipso facto, to obviate the decision in favor of selecting contact? I don't have the answers. I surely wish these people well.