Where do Hunter Gatherer Communities Live?
There are groups of hunter gatherers all over the world. In the Arctic, the Inuit people hunt walrus and travel in nomadic groups across the ice, where modern farming methods cannot be sustained. The Ache people of Paraguay in South America still survive in small communities, despite repeated attempts over the years to remove them from their ancestral homelands in order for the land to be developed. In Africa, the Hazda people of Tanzania live in a tribe of around 1,300 people and are known to be one of the oldest ‘lineages’ of humankind. In the past 50 years, these people have lost over 90% of their homelands. In Australia, the Pila Nguru, (often referred to in English as the Spinifex people) still maintain some aspects of their traditional hunter gatherer lifestyle that date back over 20,000 years, despite encroaching farmlands, railways and the use of land for testing atomic bombs in the 1950s.
Most hunter gather societies have been pushed into increasingly remote areas, by the growing agricultural communities surrounding them. They have been left with land that isn't suitable for farming, or that is located in places too difficult for many people to access. Increasingly, however, this land has come under threat too, as mineral resources have been discovered, or some other commercial land-use purpose has been found. Lands used by hunter gatherer communities might be at risk from the construction of an oil pipeline, clearing to make way for plantations, or the building of a dam for a hydro-electric scheme.
Up until a few decades ago, hunter gatherer people were regarded by governments as reminders of a ‘primitive’ past. More recently however, opinions have changed. As people across the world are becoming increasingly environmentally and culturally aware, they are less likely to support new schemes for the industrialisation of land that has, until now, been untouched by modern society. In recent years, there have been many public protests in support of the maintenance of hunter-gatherers' way of life and, in some cases, people’s legal rights to ancestral lands are starting to be recognised.
In Brazil, the government’s Indian affairs department (FUNAI) is actively trying to protect lands from incursion and development in areas that are home to the country’s 100 or more groups of uncontacted hunter gatherers, who still live in unexplored areas of the Amazon rainforest. These uncontacted peoples have never met people from outside their forest home. Whether they choose to or not should be their decision alone, which is why active protection for uncontacted people now exists in the Brazilian rainforest.
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