Indigenous tribes still living in the Stone Age

Have you ever found yourself thinking that just maybe life would be a little better—not easier, necessarily, but better—without the constant demands of modernity, the constant connection, and the ability your boss has to reach you at any time of the day? Maybe you think you could do without your cell phone, refrigeration, and even Netflix if it means you can get rid of your alarm clock, too.

Well, there are indigenous tribes that exist in the 21st century but live like they're in the Stone Age ... and if you think this might be for you, let's see how they fare against a world that's moved on around them.

The Jarawa

The Jarawa live on the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean, and it's believed they've been there for between 50,000 and 55,000 years. (Not the exact same people, but ... you know what we mean.) They migrated there from Africa at some point, and now, about 400 of them remain. They live in nomadic groups of about 50 people, hunt with bows and arrows, fish in coral reefs, collect fruit and honey. They definitely have no cell phones. Not a bad deal, right?

In the 1990s, the Indian government developed a plan that would move them out of their homes and into towns, forcing them to catch up with centuries of modern technology that had left them behind. The Jarawa wanted nothing to do with the modern world, and in 2004, it was announced that they'd be able to stay right where they were, collecting their honey and passing on their natural knowledge to future generations. Still not sounding too bad, but we all know that the developed world just can't leave well enough alone.

Roads were built through the Jarawa territories, and roads mean outsiders. In 2014, a representative came forward to expose not only the ridiculously awful practice of human safaris where outsiders are escorted through to look at the natives, but the sexual abuse they're the victims of now, too. Footage and photos show tourists bribing Jarawa girls to dance for food. In 2016, authorities were investigating the murder of a mixed-race infant and charges of rape among the bizarre claims that the baby had been killed to maintain Jarawa racial purity, and that's opening a whole can of worms that we're not even going to try to get into. We will say, though, that the moral of the story is that people ruin literally everything.

The Yanomami

The Yanomami are one of the largest groups of indigenous peoples still living an ancient lifestyle. They've been given a reserve on the border between Brazil and Venezuela, and about 22,000 live on the Brazilian side (it's about the same size as Portugal). Another 16,000-odd are in a nearby reserve in Venezuela, and smaller, uncontacted groups have been spotted from the air. Some groups have adopted metalworking and cloth-making techniques from the outside world, but a huge number remain uncontacted: those are called Moxatetu.

The Yanomami hunt in a pretty awesome way, grinding up plants and vines to make a pulp-like poison that they submerge in streams and rivers. The poison sucks the oxygen out of the water, stuns the fish, and dinner floats to the surface. If finding food is keeping you from giving up the modern world, don't worry, they have it covered. They also have natural knowledge and use around 500 different types of plants for everything from cooking that fish to creating medicines.

That's a good thing, too, because they're living in a gold-rich area that's being invaded by miners bringing all sorts of things with them, and none are good. Measles and influenza can wipe out entire groups, and runoff and pollution from the mines contaminate their food supply and their rivers. The prospect of violence has meant they're calling in the military to protect the Yanomami, all thanks to modern man's obsession with shiny rocks.

The Nomole

If one thing in the modern world might keep us from making the switch to an ancient lifestyle, it's the ability to run to the store and pick up a bottle of booze. But the Mascho Piro of Peru have that covered, as they've perfected the art of fermenting fruit in bamboo pods to make alcohol.

There's still a lot about them that we don't know, however. Somewhere between 600 and 800 Mascho live in the rain forests of Peru, and only since around 2015 have they started emerging from the forests more and more. That's not necessarily a good thing, and because people are people no matter how much clothing they're wearing, that's meant conflict. In 2010, one man initiated contact with a group of Mascho, invited them home, and started to trade with them. No one knows what happened, but they killed him a year later. That seems to have kick-started contact, and the Mascho regularly raid nearby towns for food and supplies before retreating back into the forest.

Government officials have been appointed to try to manage just how much contact happens between the Mascho and the modern world, and they know to never, ever call them Mascho. That means "savage," not a nice thing to call anyone. They call themselves "Nomole," which sort of generally translates to "brothers and sisters." Officials say that the Mascho won't hesitate to kill someone if they want something, and while we're not professional anthropologists or anything, we're going to suggest that if we want to improve relations with these people, we might want to stop calling them savages first.


First contact with the Awa-Guaja came in 1989, and over the years, the modern world's done some terrible things to them. Conflict with loggers means they're slowly seeing their ancestral lands destroyed, and for almost two centuries, they've had to keep moving. There's only so many places they can go, though, and so much forest that can be destroyed. Once legal logging was stopped, Brazil's National Indian Foundation just found themselves fighting illegal logging in an attempt to protect the 350–450 Awa-Guaja who want nothing more than to live in the forest and be left alone. Seriously, people, is that so hard?

Thanks to the greed and relentless onward march of the modern world, the Awa-Guaja have earned the dubious honor of being called Survival International's most endangered tribe. And unlike some of the other indigenous tribes we're talking about here, the Awa avoid conflict when they can, and those who've been welcomed into their homes have described them as just truly nice people. They hunt but take only what they need, and only during certain times of the year. They live in small family groups, choose their names based on which forest creatures they're most like, and keep a massive number of pets. That's enough to make us want to move in with them right now, because seriously, we'd trade Netflix, Wi-Fi, and a microwave for the chance to have a pet coati, not to mention the parakeets, owls, agoutis, and monkeys they also invite into their homes. They're semi-nomadic, and when they move, they carry everything with them. Pets come too, and we have mad respect for that.

The Sentinelese

While you have some groups—like the Awa-Guaja—who at least mingle with members of the modern world even if they choose to reject the lifestyle and all that comes with it, the Sentinelese of North Sentinel Island are the complete opposite of that. They haven't just refused contact—they kill anyone who comes into their territory. Gift offerings have been left on the island's shores, and the Sentinelese have returned the sentiment with rocks and arrows delivered very, very quickly.

Documents dating back to Persian explorers talked about an island full of cannibals. While the cannibal part's unlikely (who would have been left to write the documents, after all), it does confirm that the Sentinelese have been hating on the outside world for a long time. That means we're not sure what's going on in the island's jungle, and for all we know, they could have invented their own version of Netflix and chill.

In 2006, two fishermen got too close to the island's shores and died. In an incident that reads like something out of some strange, post-apocalyptic news blurb, Indian authorities tried to recover the bodies of the fishermen and failed, met with the usual greeting of rocks and arrows. They did, however, spot the shallow graves the men were buried in, and confirmed that the people on the island didn't seem to be cannibals after all.

In 2004, a tsunami swept over the area and killed tens of thousands of people on the nearby islands. Anthropologists flew over North Sentinel, sure the Sentinelese had been wiped out, too ... but the group emerged from the trees and waved back at them with arrows.

The Huaorani, Tagaeri, and Taromenane

The Huaorani are an Ecuadorian people who had the misfortune to live in an area that was rich with oil. When Texaco set their sights on their patch of paradise, they found themselves at the mercy of the modern world's policies of kicking anyone who stands between big companies and buried goodies. Since the 1950s, most Huaorani have been relocated and now live a hybrid lifestyle that combines their ancient ways with modern amenities.

Except for the Tagaeri and the Taromenane, two indigenous tribes that split off from the main group of Huaorani in the 1970s. These two splinter groups told Texaco just where they could shove their relocation efforts and disappeared into the rain forest to continue a nomadic, ancient lifestyle. We know a little bit about their belief system because of the values they share with the Huaorani, and one of those things that they treasure is revenge. When loggers ventured into their territory in 2005 and again in 2008, they sent a pretty clear message to the company by letting their employees live, staking one to the ground with 30 spears, and leaving him as a warning.

In 1999, Ecuador created an "Intangible" zone that was, in theory, meant to provide land for the Tagaeri and Taromenane to live in peace, but we all know how that always works out. The oil and the trees are still on the land, and that means greedy people are still trying to get it. The message apparently wasn't received.

The Kawahiva

The remaining Kawahiva are, by necessity, nomadic. They need to keep moving to keep ahead of the people who are trying to wipe them out, and that's possibly one of the saddest things we've ever heard.

In 2005, Brazilian prosecutors tried to open a genocide case, but the entire thing stalled from a lack of evidence against the 29 people accused of trying to wipe out remaining members of the tribe. The Kawahiva are being targeted merely for existing in a patch of land located in a municipality where 90 percent of the area's entire income—yes, the entire income—is from illegal logging.

We don't know that much about them, as they're still largely uncontacted. Honestly, we can't blame them for not wanting to chat with outsiders about their lifestyle, either, and they're too busy just trying to survive. We know they hunt and fish, we're pretty sure they keep pets, and they used to tend gardens and raise crops, until they were forced to keep moving ahead of the people who want to kill them.

It's thought that previous contact with outsiders exposed the Kawahiva to diseases like measles, and between that and outright murder, a 2016 estimate suggests only 25–50 Kawahiva remain. We changed our mind—that's the saddest thing we've ever heard.

The Hadza

The 1,300-odd members of the Hadza are from one of the last hunter-gatherer indigenous tribes living in Africa, and they made their home not far from the Equator, along Lake Eyasi in Tanzania. They still live in the same place people lived 1.9 million years ago, and the next time someone gets high-and-mighty about their Victorian-era home, remind them that the Hadza are still living in the same place as Homo habilis, one of the earliest of our ancestors.

Only 300–400 Hadza have managed to continue living in the old ways, in the face of the loss of as much as 90 percent of their lands. That land has been taken by governments for cattle and crops, and the general belief is that since the Hadza don't keep either crops or livestock, they're not using the land. Clearly, someone needs to revisit the accepted definition of the word "using."

The Hadza won rights to keep some of their land in 2011, but there's another problem. While they've been hunting in a very sustainable way for thousands of years, other people haven't been. Most of the larger animals they survived on—like buffalo and giraffes—have decreased to the point where they're no longer around in large enough numbers to sustain the Hadza's hunting. They've been forced to turn to smaller prey, but on the plus side, they have their land now. They also have a lifestyle that centers around a concept that the modern world needs a little more of: sharing. From possessions and property to food, they believe it's a moral obligation to share. We hope they share that idea with the rest of the world, because we could totally use it.