How long had the Tasaday been out of contact when Elizalde contacted them? Could it be they were pretending to be Tasaday? A number of hypotheses seek to explain Tasaday history.

[Bilingan's family]
  • Remnant Stone Age Peoples - When this band of 26 people was discovered in 1971, the Tasaday were a unique find and some wondered it they might have existed out of contact with contemporary cultures for a thousand or more years.

  • Hoax - From 1973 to 1986 there was little contact with the Tasaday. In 1986, the Marcos regime fell and contact was made by outside news organizations. Some called the Tasaday a hoax. Principle among these was ABC 20/20 in an August 1986 segment entitled "The Tribe that Never Was." For an alternative view on this hypothesis see The Friends of the Tasaday web site and click on A Hoax?

  • Cultural Loss - Review of research in the early 1970s and restudy after 1986 suggested that the Tasaday might have experienced cultural loss as a result of contact with colonizing cultures.

  • Cultural Isolation - Were the Tasaday isolated from surrounding peoples and how long? How can the isolation be explained? One explanation is to look at the isolation of peoples along the southern Washington, Oregon, and Northern California coasts. Features of the landscape kept these groups quite isolated as reflected in the numerous language differences.

  • Other? - What else might explain the Tasaday situation? The more that is learned the more complex the explanations become.
Photo of Bilangan and Itut with three of their five children, August 1972, by John Nance, with permission.

If the Tasaday are what anthropologists call a "band" society, how should their characteristics differ from people who are part of a "state" society?

cultural trait band state
values one with nature can improve upon nature
subsistence foragers irrigated agriculture
division of labor less specialized highly specialized
permanency nomadic permanent settlements
social network familistic many non-family relations
class status egalitarian stratified
community small large
leadership achieved bureaucracy, leadership positions are ascribed
decision making consensus elites

People who have not visited the Tasaday, with the exception of Oswalt Iten, predominate in calling them a hoax.

Person Visited
John Nance yes
Carol Molony yes
Douglas Yen yes
Oswalt Iten yes
Zeus Salazar no
Gerald Berreman no
Thomas Headland no
Pascal Lays yes
Lawrence Reid yes

Questions of Tasaday Facts

-How unique is their language & how long were they isolated?
- What is the evidence for Tasaday history?
- What were Elizalde's motives and role?
- Why did President Marcos declare a reserve?
- How close are the Tasaday to agricultural villages & how plausibile is no contact?
- What is the meaning and orgin of the owner of the forest story
- Are the tools too simple for "Cave People"?
- Did they really not hunt?
- What was their diet?
- Why was the use of forest resources so limited?
- What about their dress & why so many changes?
- Would the debris in front of the caves answer any longevity questions?
Social Networks
- How isolated were they and for how long?
- How could 26 people survive having contact with only two other like sized groups?
To Tasaday Topics

Updated:Tuesday, 19-Feb-2013 20:55:21 PST
Court Smith, Oregon State University