'The jaguar doesn't attack out of malice, and neither do the isolated ones,' says Nilo Vargas, a survivor of the arrow attack. 'So many of the Mashco Piro have suffered at the hands of illegal loggers and no one has ever found out about it. They must have thought we were loggers'.
In 2010, a group of Yine indigenous people from the Monte Salvado community were returning from the forest in search of their canoe when they missed three no trespassing signs made of branches. But before they even reached the canoe, Nilo Vargas, who was in front, felt an immense pain in his abdomen: an arrow almost three meters long had pierced him. When he looked up, he saw two Mashco Piro among the trees that immediately fled.
In the Peruvian Amazon, unprecedent deforestation, illegal and informal mining and oil and gas extraction have invaded many of the territorial reserves and intangible zones, territories occupied by indigenous people in voluntary isolation called PIACI. Since the creation of the PIACI law in 2006, the protection of indigenous peoples in isolation and initial contact has been at the forefront. However, since November 2022, congressman Jorge Morante, from the Fuerza Popular parliamentary party, through a new bill, intends to alter and weaken rights, as well as important institutional mechanisms for the protection of the PIACI.
In the regions of Loreto and Madre de Dios, where the uncontacted Matses and Mashco Piro inhabit, the regional governments allied with the private business groups are promoting the modification of the PIACI law to reactivate hydrocarbon extraction plans, even in protected areas.
Portrait of Salomon Dunu, a wise Matsés indigenous in the community of Puerto Alegre. In 1969, when Salomon was about 18 years old, he came out of his voluntary isolation when he was contacted by a group of missionaries who flew over his territory in a small plane.
Sunrise while sailing on the Yaquerana, the border river between Peru and Brazil. In Peru, in 2009, the Matsés indigenous people achieved the creation of the Matsés National Reserve of 420,000 hectares, where most of their communities are located.
Celina, an indigenous Matsés woman, points out the territory she shares with groups in voluntary isolation in the Amazon.
Portrait of Ranger Grimaldo Lopez (29), chief of the Puerto Nuevo community and agent for the protection of peoples in voluntary isolation, appointed by FENAMAD (Native Federation of the Madre de Dios River and tributaries).
Branches in the shape of a cross as a sign of no trespassing. This is how the groups in voluntary isolation block the passage through the trails and prevent entry into their territory. The Yine de Monte Salvado community borders the Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve for isolated indigenous people.
Portrait of Nilo Vargas (27) showing his large scars. Eleven years ago, at the foot of the Las Piedras river in the Monte Salvado community, a group of people in voluntary isolation attacked Nilo with an arrow that pierced his abdomen and left him on the verge of death.
Detail of the current tools of the indigenous people of the community of Puerto Alegre, with which they enter the deep forest to hunt and survive.
Detail of a "paca" made of bamboo, the main piece of the late traditional arrow of the peoples in voluntary isolation.
Members of FENAMAD (Federación Nativa del Río Madre de Dios y Afluentes) point out the points within the Amazon's territorial reserves where there have been reports of sightings and confrontations between loggers and groups in voluntary isolation.
Family portrait of Natan Bina (37) and Sandi Teca (32) with their children Gabriela, Saraí, Abelino and Josselyn. Natan is dedicated to artisanal hunting and together with his wife, they have witnessed sightings of groups in voluntary isolation. They have also found tracks and heard animal imitation shouts.
Pablo Inuma, a member of FENAMAD (Native Federation of the Madre de Dios River and tributaries) lights the forest at night. To date, three of his family members have been attacked by the isolated groups but Pablo blames the violence on the loggers who extract resources while violating the human rights of the PIACI.
Las Piedras River, Madre de Dios, Peru 2023. Ernesto Alvarado (53), Ashaninka indigenous leader of the Monte Salvado community at the bow of the boat navigating the Rio las Piedras. His territory borders the Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve created in 2002 for the uncontacted communities or indigenous in voluntary isolation.