Indonesia: Rare video of indigenous tribe facing down bulldozer shows ‘uncontacted peoples do exist’

© Observers

On the Indonesian island of Halmahera, two members of an “uncontacted” indigenous tribe were filmed facing down a logging company’s bulldozer. The rare encounter caught on camera testifies to the growing threat that industrial activities – particularly nickel mining managed in part by a French company – pose to indigenous tribes. For members of an indigenous rights NGO, the video serves as a reminder to the government and companies that uncontacted populations exist.

On October 26, an employee of a logging company on the island of Halmahera, Indonesia shared an incredibly rare series of videos on Facebook showing an encounter with members of an indigenous tribe. The encounter, filmed from a bulldozer, is only the third known record since 2016 that documents the “uncontacted” indigenous population of the island.

“Uncontacted” peoples are indigenous communities with little to no sustained contact with their neighbours or the outside world.

From across a stream, we see two men approaching, shouting and waving their arms. They appear to be armed with bows and machetes. In one of the videos, one of the men steps into the stream and briefly appears to aim at the bulldozer. When the vehicle's engine roars violently – presumably to scare him off – he lowers his weapon and retreats.

The videos went viral on Indonesian social networks, especially after being shared by the Indonesian NGO Jatam which campaigns against the destructive effects of mining in Indonesia, and the NGO Survival International. While the person who posted the videos characterised the incident as "an attack", others saw it as a gesture of legitimate resistance by tribesmen protecting their land.

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