The Arrow People: Catching a glimpse of Paleolithic man

Writer and journalist Scott Wallace joined an expedition deep into the Amazon “to track one of the planet’s most isolated and dangerous indigenous tribes, the mysterious Arrow People.” An excerpt of Wallace’s book documenting the expedition, In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes, was published in the Fall 2012 issue of Mizzou Magazine


Expedition leader Sydney Possuelo, dedicated to encountering “vestiges of isolated tribes,” attempts to find and contact these rarely seen people. Describing what is known of the Arrow People, and “rapt with marvel and admiration,” he notes:

They live from hunting, fishing, and gathering.

To facilitate contact and communication with the tribe, Possuelo recruited members of friendly tribes. From Mizzou:

Much like Lewis and Clark’s exploration of North America 200 years earlier, the team includes members of three friendly tribes … to get information he needs to protect them.

Upon entering the land of the Arrow People, the 34-member team found vestiges – palm leaves on the ground of a small clearing used as sleeping mats and partially eaten patuá fruit – but no signs of the “flecheiros.” They moved deeper in to their territory. Suddenly, expeditioner Paulo Welker yelled:

Over here! Over here, they’re crossing the river!”

Soldado and Paulo Welker were heaving deeply, hands on their knees, by the time we reached the bluff above the river. Behind them rose the upended roots of an enormous tree that had fallen into the water. Another tree of similar dimension had fallen from the opposite bank, some 30 yards distant, an the two trunks met halfway across the river to form a single span, in the shape of a shallow V, like a bridge that had taken a direct hit in the midsection and had collapsed into the water. Vines had been strung between the barren branches that protruded vertically from the prostrate logs to form a makeshift handrail. Clearly, this was a regular transit point for the flecheiros.

“I saw one!” Welker gasped, still struggling to recover his breath. “He was naked, with long hair. Broad shoulders. Strong. He ran across the bridge. Disappeared into the woods.” He pointed across to the far side of the river.

Soldado had caught a glimpse of two flechieros (Arrow People) and added a detail: “They were naked – but for a string around their waists.”

The expeditioners left gifts signaling their wish to communicate, but there was no response and threat was palpable. It would take time for the flecheiros to mobilized members from other villages. The expeditioners backed out of the area.

We stared across the river into the trees beyond the far bank. We saw nothing but the high wall of jungle, but we could feel their eyes upon us. All we could hear was the incessant flow of the water and the rush of the blood pounding in our ears.