The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes

The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes

4.6 8
by Scott Wallace

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In this gripping first-person account of adventure and survival, The Unconquered tells the extraordinary story of a journey into the deepest recesses of the Amazon to track one of the planet's last uncontacted indigenous tribes. Author Scott Wallace follows a 34-man team into a land both wondrous and horrifying, where untrammeled nature holds sway in a land

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In this gripping first-person account of adventure and survival, The Unconquered tells the extraordinary story of a journey into the deepest recesses of the Amazon to track one of the planet's last uncontacted indigenous tribes. Author Scott Wallace follows a 34-man team into a land both wondrous and horrifying, where untrammeled nature holds sway in a land of permanent twilight. Danger lurks at every step as the expedition moves ever closer to a possible encounter with the mysterious flecheiros—the "People of the Arrow"—a seldom-glimpsed tribe of deft archers known to defend their lands with showers of deadly arrows before melting back into the forest shadows.
Laced with anthropological insight and offering a fresh perspective on the Amazon’s own convulsed history, The Unconquered boasts a Conradian cast of unforgettable characters—all driven by a passion to preserve the wild, but also wracked by fear, suspicion, and the desperate need to make it home alive. Wallace takes the reader into the very depths of the Amazon in this page-turning tale of adventure, revealing this critical battleground as it has rarely been seen before.
Piece by piece, Wallace uncovers clues as to who the Arrow People might be, how they have managed to endure as one of the last unconquered tribes, and why so much about them must remain shrouded in mystery if they – and the rainforest on which all of depend– are to survive. Evoking an era of exploration and derring-do that has all but vanished from the Earth, The Unconquered will change the way you see the world and your place in it.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
National Geographic writer Wallace recounts his grueling odyssey into the remotest stretches of the Amazon Basin as he tracks down the ”Arrow People,” one of the last “uncontacted” tribes left in the world. Wallace’s 34-member expedition was led by Sydney Possuelo, a legendary sertanista (a Brazilian hybrid of woodsman, explorer, and anthropologist). On the three-month trek by riverboat, canoe, and foot, the expedition was threatened by pumas, starvation, disease, hostile natives, and tensions that develop between men in close quarters. The mercurial Possuelo’s mission seems paradoxical—he wants to clearly identify the “Arrow People,” but only so that in the future they will be left completely alone. The book is overlong, and in the early chapters, Wallace tends to repeat grand pronouncements about culture, history, and the environment. His best writing focuses on the details and daily grind of the expedition and, as the book progresses, on the simple struggle for survival. Wallace nicely captures the hostility and paranoia that threaten to tear the group apart. He’s equally unsparing of his own insecurity and weakness, and the contrast between the threatened Amazon and the exhausted men brings the region’s harsh beauties to life. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Writer and photographer Wallace had a dilemma: Should he spend the summer reconnecting with his three sons from an earlier marriage and foster a budding romance or head off to the Amazon for weeks of deprivation and hardship, tracking índios bravos (wild Indians)? He chose the latter and here relates his expedition. Traveling under the auspices of National Geographic, he and one other non-Brazilian in the group want to see tribes that have never been contacted, but the leader of the expedition, the head of Brazil's National Indian Foundation's Department of Isolated Indians, does not want this. He only wants to document the extent of their settlements and movement, to prove that the country's new policy of leaving the uncontacted Indians alone is working. Therein lies the tension. Will they see the people they seek? Will the trekkers mutiny? And who's hoarding the packets of Kool-Aid? VERDICT The book is slow at first (and perhaps could have been whittled down) but picks up. One gets a real sense of the raw jungle, Indian/white dynamics, and Wallace's own personal struggles. This compelling narrative is recommended for adventure travelers and those interested in Native American ethnography and rights.—Lee Arnold, Historical Soc. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Kirkus Reviews

A photographer, journalist and first-time author joins a celebrated Brazilian Indian rights activist on an expedition in search of an isolated Amazon tribe.

Brazil's dense forests are known to shelter some 400,000 Indians from 270 tribes. But there are reportedly many more indigenous people who have not made contact with modern civilization. As head of Brazil's Department of Isolated Indians, wilderness scout Sydney Possuelo, 62, had already confirmed the existence of 17 uncontacted tribes by 2002, when the author was assigned byNational Geographicto cover Possuelo's attempt to find yet another group said to be living deep in the Amazon: theflecheiros, or "People of the Arrow." Wallace's book is a detailed, overlong account of the three-month land-and-water journey, in which Possuelo and his 34 men sought facts about the Arrow People's existence—but deliberately made no contact with the tribe. The "no-contact" policy, set by Possuelo, was intended to protect wild Indians from the diseases of white men. Unfortunately, it robs readers of the traditional payoff of a journey of discovery. Even the author yearned for the knowledge that contact would bring. But Possuelo's goal was to quietly observe that the Arrow People are thriving, then leave, preserving the tribe's isolation. "The best thing we can do is to stay out of their lives," he says. Only later, on a flight retracing the expedition's route, did Wallace glimpse members of the tribe, scurrying about like ants, then "staring up at us in a trance." Wallace provides a good sense of deep-jungle travel and dining (piranha stew, boiled monkey, etc.), and portrays Possuelo as a great explorer dedicated to saving Brazil's Indians. He notes that Possuelo was later fired after criticizing his boss's remark that Indians were claiming too much land. By then, Possuelo had protected 365,000 square miles of indigenous lands from logging, mining and other development.

A well-reported but somewhat disappointing adventure story.

From the Publisher

"Wallace's foreboding is matched by his sense of wonder." – New York Times Book Review

"Astonishing." – The London Sunday Times

"A rousing adventure tale." – Wall Street Journal

"Wallace's gripping account takes us upriver to a place very few outsiders have ever seen." – The Boston Globe

"What a great book! An adventure story worthy of Joseph Conrad or Peter Matthiessen." – The Oregonian

“Rousing.” – TIME
"Startlingly novelistic." –

“It’s easy to picture The Unconquered being made into a movie.” – Washington Post Express
"Masterful...positively cinematic." – Yale Alumni Magazine

 “An eye-opening read…one of the most gripping pieces of non-fiction around…. You’ll swear you are reading a thriller novel.” – Guernica
“Dream assignment or nightmare? An editor from National Geographic asked journalist Scott Wallace to join an expedition into the deepest wilds of the Amazon jungle to find the mysterious ‘People of the Arrow.' While the experience was pretty much a nightmare, it’s a blessing for readers of Wallace's fascinating book.” — Associated Press
“Echoing Amazonia’s earliest European explorers, Wallace crafts a tale that is part gripping adventure story, part window into the unexpected complexities of a developing country where uncontacted tribes stand between a resource-hungry economy and an area abounding in natural wealth.” – Indian Country Today
“Rife with poachers, drug smugglers, illegal gold miners and violent tribes already acquainted with the dangers of modern life…Wallace describes the trek in vivid, if unsettling, terms.” – Maclean’s
“Wallace joins the tribe of jungle-besotted literary types led by Redmond O'Hanlon and David Grann and presents a credibly incredible tale about his voyage past the edge of modernity.” – Huffington Post
"A gripping tale of adventure." – Washingtonian

“While it’s hard to imagine that ‘stone-age’ tribes still persist in a world of cell phones, satellites and social media, it’s even harder to understand how difficult it is to police these isolated regions, to keep them free of outsiders who could endanger a way of life that has nearly disappeared…Wallace’s narrative is apt and penetrating.” – SEJournal

From the Hardcover edition.

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