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

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

by Scott Wallace

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Overview

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

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307462961
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 10/18/2011
Pages: 512
Product dimensions: 9.36(w) x 6.44(h) x 1.61(d)

About the Author

SCOTT WALLACE is a journalist whose assignments have taken him from the Himalayas and the streets of Baghdad to the Alaskan Arctic and the Amazon. A former correspondent for the Guardian and Newsweek, he has written for National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, and Harper’s. His photography has appeared in Smithsonian, Outside, and Sports Afield. His television credits include CBS, CNN, and National Geographic Channel.

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In an age when there is little left in the world that can be said to be still "virgin," contemporary travel literature has come to seem increasingly derivative, even farcical. The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes is a rare exception, an original that works on several levels. Scott Wallace has sensitively documented the immensity, history, the terror, and the beauty of one of the world's last true wildernesses and the people who live within it. This is a wonderful book: deeply moving, riveting by turns, laced with finely wrought passages.

On the one hand, The Unconquered is the account of a nightmarish three-month expedition into the Amazon jungle in 2002 led by the irascible Brazilian wilderness explorer Sydney Possuelo, a legendary defender of the region's last uncontacted Indians. Rife through with moments of danger, loneliness, and hunger, as well as the testosterone-fuelled dramas that seem peculiar to groups of men undergoing hard times together, The Unconquered makes a spellbinding tale of real-life high-adventure.

This is also the account of an equally fascinating inward journey taken by its author, the American journalist Scott Wallace, who originally joined Possuelo on his trek in order to write about his journey for National Geographic. In this book, Wallace, who renders memorable portraits of his fellow expeditionaries (the cook, Mauro, haunted by nightmares about monkeys who castrate him; Soldado the backwoods scout, who refuses to return home and see his aging mother) is also brutally honest about himself. Recently divorced, Wallace sets off into the jungle just shy of his forty-eighth birthday; he is out-of-shape, guilt-ridden for not having said goodbye to his three young sons, and fretful about the implications of a prolonged separation with his new girlfriend.

The main character of The Unconquered, however, is Sydney Possuelo, a larger-than-life figure who emerges as a kind of Indian Jones- meets latter-day Bartolome de las Casas. Some years before Wallace met him, Possuelo, Brazil's best-known sertanista, or "agent of contact" with the Amazon's isolated indigenous people, had undergone a crisis of conscience about the destruction wrought by his life's work. He had become instead the main proponent of a no-contact policy for the Amazon's remaining "uncontacted" tribes. He had lobbied for and secured the designation of a vast Maine-sized tract of Amazonian wilderness called the Javari Valley Indigenous Land, to be closed off to all outsiders in perpetuity. It was the refuge of several uncontacted tribes hostile to outsiders, including the implacable flecheiros, the Arrow People, whose territory Possuelo planned to explore.

The motives behind Possuelo's 2002 expedition seemed nonetheless obscure, even contradictory. As Possuelo explained it to Wallace, he wished to gather vital information about the flecheiros and to ascertain their wellbeing, but could only do so by penetrating their sanctuary on foot and by dugout canoe with a band of armed men, while at the same time seeking to avoid contact with them. During the journey itself, the inescapable Catch-22 of Possuelo's logic became more and more apparent until the moment, retold dramatically by Wallace, when the expeditionaries blundered inevitably through a flecheiro settlement, spreading panic as they went.

In the end, The Unconquered is the unforgettable story of a troubled journey through a doomed landscape, its characters—the outsiders and the Indians—locked together in an ever-tightening fatal embrace by their respective needs and compulsions.

At one point in the book, Possuelo points to a path they have slashed out of the jungle with their machetes and tells Wallace: "Five years from now, you will never know we were here." But Wallace is unconvinced, and notes ruefully: "It was doubtful the Arrow People would forget us so easily."

—Jon Lee Anderson Guest Review: The Unconquered

Jon Lee Anderson is a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine. His books include: "Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life," "The Fall of Baghdad," and "The Lion's Grave: Dispatches from Afghanistan." Anderson began his reporting career in 1979, in Peru. In 2009, he won an Overseas Press Club Award for his reporting on Rio de Janeiro's gangland.

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Unconquered 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
ImnezH More than 1 year ago
This is going to be a good one. I read the National Geographic article that eventually led to this book, and it was fascinating. Can't wait for the full story. Profound philosophical questions about human culture and indigenous survival, interwoven with environmental investigation, and wrapped in a gripping adventure story.
LLBostick More than 1 year ago
Scott Wallace's "The Unconquered" is excellent. I generally read fiction, but Mr. Wallace somehow managed to sneak a wealth of information on a topic I knew nothing about (uncontacted tribes in the Amazon) into an emotional, real-life action adventure that left me both sad that I've never had such opportunities to explore the world, and thankful that someone else has and that he has the talent to bring it all back to me in words and pictures. Read it. You won't be disappointed; the story is rich, the photos are hauntingly beautiful, and you may just find yourself viewing the world a bit differently.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable informative adventure tale. Makes you question modern society.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rose-MarieRD More than 1 year ago
I was so excited when I got my hands on this book - for all the new history books, memoirs, biographies, etc., that I've been reading lately, this book's got it. Real life adventure. Substance. I had truly enjoyed the book "River of Darkness" about Orellana's voyage down the Amazon and a few others about South American history,  so this book resonated for the concerns about the indigenous tribes, esp the uncontacted, the environment and sheer excitement!!
kamas716 More than 1 year ago
Slightly disappointed by this tale of a FUNAI team exploring the Amazon jungle to determine the health and living boundaries of an uncontacted indian tribe. It was more the observations and fears of the writer than a true adventure story. The team leader seemed rather bipolar. While it is common for expeditions under adverse conditions to become rather fractious, it seemed like much of the problems were caused by Possuelo himself. FUNAI itself reminds me a lot of the UN Peacekeeping team that was in Rwanda; unable to do anything but try to talk people out of what they are doing. While the information in the book is good, I was underwhelmed by the book overall. For an Amazon adventure, I would instead recommend The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard or The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann. The eBook was formatted well, with no spelling or grammar errors. There are a couple of maps in the front, and several photos in the pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unconquered is an important book. Wallace enters a world so foreign that its closest approximation come from a science fiction film referenced at the book's end. There were plenty of times when I wished I was in the hands of a better writer, but the sense of urgency is persistent. The book leaves me with a lot of questions--rightfullty so.
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