Things I Know 170 of 365: There are places we haven’t been

As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Star Fleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Star Fleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation.

Star Fleet Command

No contact. No twitter. No Hulu. They wouldn’t even appreciate Netflix’s transition from discs to instant streaming.

Earlier this week, the Brazilian government confirmed the existence of a newly-discovered uncontacted Indian tribe.

The announcement’s been taking up space in my brain since I read the story.

There are still places we haven’t been. Right here, on Earth, there are places we haven’t been.

Deep in the Amazon, the tribe is estimated to consist of approximately 200 people who “live in four large, straw-roofed buildings and grow corn, bananas, peanuts and other crops.” They would have no idea how to select a toothbrush or whether to buy the roll of paper towels that comes in regular sheets or the roll that rips off in smaller pieces.

I envy them.

I’m not saying I want to give up my life for theirs in some sort of Freaky Friday scenario.

What I want is to know the tribe is there, to know we are waiting for them to make contact with us and to know they will remain protected.

Even that sentence seems strange – “to make contact with us.” Us? I don’t at all expect this tribe will someday call me up. I completely realize their first contact won’t be with Americans at all. Still, their existence creates a “them” in my head different than that of the “them” of Canadians or Portuguese.

The people of this tribe are foreign in a way I can think of few people in the world as foreign. They are completely unknown.


As much as I enjoy living in a global community, I sometimes think of the possibility of being uncontacted.

Last year, after an intense month working alongside educators in South Africa and directly on the heels of a busy school year, I attempted to go uncontacted. I went camping for a week.

It was only a week and even then I was documenting my trip so that I could have stored up contacts to share once I was able.

My life is continuously defined and refined by the contacts I’ve made. My friends and colleagues are the result of the hard and soft contacts I’ve made over the last decade. What I like is the idea of the ability to pause those contacts from time to time.

It’s the feeling a friend of mine was hoping for when she deactivated her Facebook account to study for an upcoming exam.

Contacts are difficult to break.

My friend learned that when her boyfriend called her the day after her deactivation wondering why Facebook had told him they were no longer dating.

I think that’s what I envy most about this tribe. Being contacted, being in contact means being accountable to those to whom you are connected. Sometimes, that contact can be taxing.

As curious as I am about this uncontacted tribe, I’m perfectly willing to wait for them to pick up the phone (or whatever we’re using when the time comes).


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