As a country that lives with a high degree of cultural and natural diversity, Peru struggles with a number of unique problems that other countries do not even have to contemplate. What do you do, for example, when a tribe of indigenous people from the Amazon Jungle in the stages of initial contact, and highly susceptible to diseases, leave their home territory and move into other communities?
Peru passed a law in 2006 called the Law for the Protection of Indigenous or Native Peoples in Isolation and Initial Contact Situations. The intent of the law is to help protect people, mostly in the Amazon Rainforest, who have had little to no contact with the world outside their communities. Many of the initial contact and ‘un-contacted’ tribes in the Amazon do not have natural defenses against common diseases. Their culture and way of life is also put at risk when extensive contact develops, as this often comes in the form of roads, building and mining projects, legal and illegal, that destroy the natural environment native people depend on.
So what does a country like Peru do when the Mashco Piro Indians, an ‘un-contacted’ tribe, leave their home territory of their own will in a protect park and invade surrounding communities?
Since 2011 the Mashco Piro have been leaving the Tambopata region of Madre de Dios in the Amazon and moving into surrounding areas including the Monte Salvado, Shipitiari and Diamante communities in Madre de Dios. They come seeking shelter and food as their home territory has been invaded by drug cartels, deforestation and illegal logging.
Beginning this Monday, there is evidence that the Mashco Piro are once again on the move. Residents of Monte Salvado found waste and tools left by the Mashco Piro on the banks of the Piedras river, reported César Augusto Jojajé, president of the Native Federation of the Rio Madre de Dios and Tributaries (Fenamad). Jojajé is concerned as this is becoming a recurrent, frequent event.
Just this past December the villages of Monte Salvado and Puerto Nuevo were forced to evacuate as approximately 300 Mashco Piro arrived looking for food and laying waste to some homes.
This is where Peru’s unique problems come to the fore-light. The government had to airlift out many of the community members to both protect them from conflict with the Mascho Piro, and to protect the Mashco Piro from contact with diseases that could start an epidemic and threaten their existence.
The Ministry of Culture sought motives for this last migration of Mascho Piro Indians, but did not find any reasons and the cause still remains unknown.
Even more recently, the Shipitiari and Diamante communities sighted the Mascho Piro close to their communities. The community president, Henry Rose Alvarez, stated that he would welcome the Mascho Piro should they return, as they seamed to be in poor health. In a catch-22, this would still create a problem for Peru as it would violate the Law for the Protection of Indigenous or Native Peoples in Isolation and Initial Contact Situations which prohibits contact with these tribes. While President Rose Alvarez’s intentions might be good, he might inadvertently expose the Mascho Piro to diseases that could be deadly to them. No matter how other communities decide tot react to the Mascho Piro arriving on their doorstep, it creates a problem that could have deadly consequences.