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The Unconquered, by Scott Wallace

Reviewed by Julia Heath

Sydney Possuelo is on a mission to find the last uncontacted tribes in the Amazon. A passionate and radical explorer and ethnographer, Possuelo has devoted his life to the preservation of indigenous and uncontacted Amazonian tribes, in addition to creating a team of likeminded activists called the Sertanistas. Possuelo is also the main character in Scott Wallace’s new book, The Unconquered, which chronicles the antics that ensued during a three-month mission into the Amazon to locate an uncontacted tribe called the Flecheiros (Arrow People). Wallace accompanied the group as a National Geographic journalist as it mapped the villages and wanderings of the Flecheiros using a Global Positioning System (GPS).

The story unfolds in the Javari, the largest reservation for the indigenous peoples of Brazil. As Wallace points out, “We create national parks to save animals; why not for humans?” The Javari protects an estimated 4,500 residents. Speaking with contacted tribes and using GPS to map the Javari, Possuelo confirmed the existence of only 17 tribes that remained uncontacted. However, he had heard of several uncomfirmed tribes. According to Possuelo’s vision, these uncontacted tribes would make up the core of the reserve, while contacted natives could act as a buffer zone between the outside world and the uncontacted. The GPS was crucial to Possuelo’s mission to accurately map the locations of each tribe and adjust the Javari’s boundaries accordingly.

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