My parents served with New Tribes for 4 years in the late 80s in the Amazon regions of Bolivia. At the time New Tribes was working to contact the Yuqui tribe who were under pressure from the regional Bolivian loggers and the Bolivian government itself. Here is a link to view pics of the tribe where they still live. http://www.pbase.com/beamsclan/yuqui.
New Tribes is a Christian organization and the purpose of the contact teams they send out is primarily to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, but they do try to do so in a responsible manner. Especially as you pointed out, as many well meaning people have killed through contact of diseases.
The Yuqui people share some language and cultural similarities with the Tupi-Guarani people group in Bolivia, but are distinct from them.
The contacts were always intended to be peaceful, and the shotgun was carried to be shot in the air, and never to be used against the people themselves. That is in fact what happened on the day that the tribe fired on the New Tribes team. The gentleman who was shot in the back was the Yuqui translator that was with the team, and he was shot because he happened to be standing closest to the tribe, who were in the jungle/wooded area. My dad fired into the air, and the contact group hastily retreated. As far as we know, there was no reason for the tribe to be upset with the team, or to have fired on them except that they were naturally hostile toward any but their own tribal members.
I was 5 or 6 at the time, but I do remember clearly my mom binding up the wound of the poor translator and the adults gathering in our home.
I know there is a lot of debate about missionaries contacting tribal groups and the work that they do. However, I think that New Tribes did a good work in contacting the Yuqui and convincing them to settle. Their numbers were ever diminishing because of the pressure and the fighting between them and the Bolivians in the area. They were a stone age tribe in all definitions of the term and were fighting with bows and arrows against the guns of the loggers and settlers in the area. They were also hostile due to their natural religion and often sought the fights out. The contact team certainly did not quit after the incident Ryan introduced you guys to. They persevered in giving gifts and earning trust. Currently all remaining Yuqui are settled along the Chimore River in Bolivia.
If you guys are interested in more information about the Yuqui and the history of the tribe and what happened in the 60s through the 80s here are some good websites:
And an excerpt from the every culture site:
Relations with all outsiders (Aba) were traditionally hostile. Whites or mestizos were thought to be the spirits of dead Yuqui and were greatly feared. The word "Aba" probably derives from a term used by Guaraní invaders, whom the Yuqui consider to be their own progenitors (there are still Guaraní people known as "Ava"). Nevertheless, because these outsiders, or Aba, are not known Yuqui and therefore must be spirits of dead ancestors, they are regarded as enemies to be destroyed. This reaction is consistent with the belief held by the Yuqui until peaceful contact occurred that they were the only living beings on earth. In the mid-1950s increasing hostilities with settlers moving into Yuqui territory resulted in the arrival of missionary contact teams organized by the New Tribes Mission, a group of North American Protestant fundamentalists. Following more than ten years' of cutting gift trails, leaving gifts for the Yuqui along these trails, and gradually establishing peaceful relationships with a band of fortythree individuals, the mission convinced the group to give up its nomadic existence and hostilities with the outside world. They were settled at a camp on the Río Chimore. In late 1986 and 1989, what were probably the last two remaining bands of forest Yuqui were successfully contacted and encouraged to relocate to the Chimore camp. With natural increase and the addition of the two new bands, both closely related to the original band contacted, the population had reached 130 by 1990.
**The Yuqui population is now at 200.
SO fun to relive all that stuff. Here are a couple pics I am stealing from my life. Mom did the black box thing for the tender eyes of the churches back in the States.
Pic #1. Dad and some of the Yuqui tribe they were contacting.
Pic #2. Me and Nate hanging out in our yard.
Pic #3. Playing around with some Yuqui friends on the homemade scooter.