The Atlantic

What Some of the World’s Last Hunter-Gatherers Have to Say

An ancient saying he learned from his subjects, the Lamalerans, showed the journalist Doug Bock Clark how to tell the story of a tribe with no recorded history.
Source: Doug McLean

By Heart is a series in which authors share and discuss their all-time favorite passages in literature. See entries from Jonathan Franzen, Amy Tan, Khaled Hosseini, and more.

What is lost when a culture disappears? That’s the question at the heart of a new book about the Lamalerans, a tribe of about 1,500 living on a remote, eastern Indonesian island in the Savu Sea. The Lamalerans are one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer groups: For hundreds of years, they have fed themselves by hunting sperm whales, some of the world’s largest mammals, using nothing but small boats and handmade harpoons. But this perilous endeavor—an almost unthinkable feat of coordination, athleticism, and bravery—will probably prove less difficult than resisting the homogenizing forces of the outside world.

The journalist Doug Bock Clark spent months at a time living with the Lamalerans to write : . In a conversation for this series, he explained how one Lamaleran saying—an ancient plea for unity—taught him how to tell the story of a tribe with no recorded

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic5 min read
The Fury of the Prep-School Parents
An elite-college education is one of the few expensive things that is for sale, but that not everyone is allowed to buy.
The Atlantic3 min readPolitics
The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: And Then There Were 10
Tomorrow there will be ... 10 more Democratic 2020 candidates sharing a debate stage. Plus: How a home-goods company got tangled up in the migrant-detention crisis.
The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
Trump Takes A Back Seat To Policy At The Democratic Debate
The president dominates every aspect of American politics, but you wouldn’t have known that from watching the first batch of candidates Wednesday night.