Glenn H. Shepard Jr.

We usually think about the medical systems of indigenous people in terms of plants, rituals, or shamanic chanting. But one very important health strategy that indigenous people have used for centuries is “voluntary isolation,” a radical form of what we now call social distancing: cutting off all contact with other human groups in order to escape from fatal epidemics and colonial violence. The so-called “uncontacted” tribes of the Amazon are not people who were accidentally left behind in the Stone Age; rather, they consciously chose to isolate themselves from their neighbors in order to survive. Today, the entire world is getting a small taste of the kind of mortal panic that has led indigenous peoples to cut off all contact with outsiders; in some cases, through the present day… continue reading.

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