Scott Wallace is an award-winning author, photographer and educator who has covered the environment, vanishing cultures, and conflict over land and resources around the world since the 1980s.
He is a frequent contributor to National Geographic and author of the bestselling "The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes." He is a frequent lecturer on exploration, the environment, and the fate of isolated indigenous tribes
Wallace has undertaken major treks while on assignment in the Amazon, the Andes, and the Himalayas and has reported from the Arctic, Southeast Asia, China, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union. He began his career covering the wars in Central America in the 1980s for CBS News Radio, Newsweek, and the Guardian.
His television producing credits include CBS, CNN, and National Geographic Channel. He has filmed independent documentaries in Iraq and Afghanistan. His photography has appeared in publications throughout the world and is represented by Getty Images.
He has been teaching journalism at the University of Connecticut since 2017.
Areas of Expertise (7)
COVID-19 in the Amazon
University of Missouri School of Journalism: M.A., Print and Broadcast Reporting
Yale University: B.A., Philosophy
- Society of Environmental Journalists
- The Overseas Press Club
- National Press Photographers Association
- Investigative Reporters & Editors
- The Explorers Club
- Society of Professional Journalists
Fellow, Humanities Institute, University of Connecticut (professional)
Awarded the prestigious Humanities Fellowship for 2020-21 at the University of Connecticut to pursue a major project on indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforests of Brazil.
New York Times Best Seller List (professional)
"The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes" by Scott Wallace reaches the New York Times Best Seller List.
Ted Scripps Fellowship in Environmental Journalism (professional)
2014-2015 Awarded prestigious fellowship to conduct research on environmental issues. University of Colorado-Boulder
Renewable Natural Resources Foundation Excellence in Journalism Award (professional)
2014 In recognition of excellent reporting for National Geographic from the depths of the Amazon on the perilous fight of native communities against the illegal timber trade in Peru.
Explorers Club’s Lowell Thomas Award for Excellence (professional)
2012 Awarded one of the highest honors from the Explorers Club, the world's premier fellowship for scientific discovery and exploration, for "mindful" exploration and excellence in expedition reporting.
Media Appearances (18)
Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips were killed in the Amazon. A year later their Indigenous allies risk death to carry on the work.
The Guardian online
Scott Wallace, an American journalist and author who took part in that 76-day mission, first met Pelado on the Itaquaí, upstream from where Pereira and Phillips were killed, and described “a very amiable, upbeat kid who laughed a lot, and seemed to get along with everyone”. Pelado was also an expert backwoodsman who built jungle camps and cleared fallen trees as the expeditionaries advanced into the wilderness. “He’d just gotten married and his wife was expecting their first son, so he was really excited about the chance to join the expedition … and the family he was looking forward to raising,” Wallace said, recalling Pelado’s exhilaration at the prospect of catching sight of the uncontacted flecheiros. “It would be a story that he could tell to his children and grandchildren and he [thought he] would be greatly respected,” said Wallace, who today teaches journalism at the University of Connecticut.
The Killing of Dom and Bruno
The Washington Post print
Pelado kept that fear mostly hidden beneath smiles and an apparent desire to please. But one night around the fire, journalist Scott Wallace witnessed a different Pelado. The young man was talking about a frightful incident. Shortly before the journey, he’d been held up by bandits. Afterward, he’d wanted revenge, to “break” the men. Wallace asked what he meant. “ ‘Kill them,’ ” he said. “That was when I began to think maybe Pelado isn’t the happy-go-lucky guy that I first thought,” said Wallace, now a journalism professor at the University of Connecticut.
Two Murders in the Amazon
The New Yorker online
My longtime friend and colleague Scott Wallace, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Connecticut, knew both Pereira and Phillips, and he also knows the Javari area well. (He wrote about it in a November, 2019, piece for National Geographic, titled “Death stalks the Amazon as tribes and their defenders come under attack.”) Last week, Wallace told me that, whenever he needed updates about what was happening on the ground in the Amazon, and especially in the Javari, he would contact Pereira. (Prior to his disappearance, Pereira was still officially employed by funai, which had been taken over by Bolsonarista appointees, but he had taken an unpaid leave.)
Murder in the Amazon: how much are Bolsonaro's policies to blame?
“The Javari indigenous land is really one of the gems of the Amazon and perhaps really of the world,” Scott Wallace, a professor of environmental journalism at the University of Connecticut, told Univision. “It is an intact, unbroken, primal forest, rich with wildlife, fish, timber, it is a gem of ecological and cultural diversity… but unfortunately it has been largely neglected in terms of its protection,” he added. Wallace spent several weeks in the Javari in 2002 researching a book about the last ‘uncontacted’ indigenous tribes in Brazil, and he knew Phillips and Pereira well. “It’s a terrible loss. These were two beautiful human beings who cared deeply about the Amazon and the people who live there,” he said.
Javari valley: the lawless primal wilderness where Dom Phillips went missing
The Guardian online
In Brazil’s far west lies an immense swath of rainforest and rugged terrain reachable only by snaking brown rivers. Wedged alongside the border with Peru, the Javari valley is the largest refuge for Indigenous tribes living in isolation from the outside world. “The Javari is one of the last true bastions of primal wilderness in the Amazon – and in the world,” said Scott Wallace, author of The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes. But the region is also a lawless zone where criminals act with impunity, said Wallace, now associate professor of journalism at the University of Connecticut.
The Fate of the Amazon: Fires and Deforestation
"Where We Live," WNPR radio
As fires burn in the Amazon rainforest, we ask: To what extent is deforestation responsible for the flames? Scott Wallace discusses his recent reporting on police operations against illegal logging in the Amazon. What impact does illegal logging have on the rainforest? What link does it have to the fires? And what is being done to stop it?
In Today’s Headlines, Echoes of Central America’s Proxy Wars of the 1980s
New York Times online
Scott Wallace documented deadly conflicts in crowded Central American cities and dusty hamlets during the 1980s. Their effects are still felt today.
The Modern World Closes In On The Amazon
"Think" on KERA Dallas radio
Loggers are tempted by the riches of the Amazon and its vast forestland. Scott Wallace talks about how that thirst for lumber and other natural resources is threatening indigenous groups in Brazil and Peru. His story “Isolated Nomads Are Under Siege in the Amazon Jungle” appears in the November National Geographic.
Covering The Amazon's 'Unconquered' Tribes
Journalist and author Scott Wallace has dedicated years to documenting the so-called "unconquered" tribes of South America. This hour, we sit down with Wallace who, in addition to traveling and writing, is a professor of journalism at the University of Connecticut.
The Unconquered: Brazil's People of the Arrow
National Geographic Live! online
Video produced in conjunction with Scott Wallace's live presentation at National Geographic Headquarters, Washington, DC. With nearly 300.000 views, thIs lecture on uncontacted tribes and the Amazon rainforest was named one of the 10 Most Watched Lectures of 2012 by National Geographic Live!
"Estados Unidos aplicó en Centroamérica todo lo que aprendió en Vietnam": Scott Wallace, el célebre fotoperiodista que cubrió la región durante la crisis de los 80
BBC Mundo online
La experiencia de Vietnam influyó de una manera muy profunda en la política de Estados Unidos en Centroamérica. La mayoría de los asesores norteamericanos que estaban trabajando en las fuerzas especiales enviadas a El Salvador eran veteranos de Vietnam que trataban de aplicar las lecciones de esa guerra a la realidad de El Salvador, utilizando tácticas agresivas, emboscadas, patrullas pequeñas, tomando la iniciativa en operaciones nocturnas, buscando cómo ganar las mentes y los corazones de la población civil con tácticas de guerra psicológica... Todas las lecciones que aprendieron en Vietnam las aplicaron en Centroamérica.
Today, there are approximately 100 tribes in the Amazon rainforest that have not interacted with the modern world. A hundred years ago, there were many more. In this co-production with Retro Report, Scott Wallace, author of The Unconquered, talks about the ever-shrinking world for the indigenous people who have chosen to live with limited or no contact with the outside world.
Audio: Scott Wallace on the importance of protecting uncontacted indigenous groups in the Amazon
Wallace discusses his travels in the Amazon, the latest developments affecting the isolated tribe known as the Arrow People, the threats facing isolated and uncontacted indigenous tribes, and why allowing these groups to go extinct would be a “great stain” on our humanity.
One Book Peru’s Presidents Really Must Read
Huffington Post online
There’s a wonderful moment in The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon‘s Last Uncontacted Tribes when the author, Scott Wallace, deep in the Brazilian Amazon accompanying a government expedition, finds himself staring at a path apparently made by indigenous people living without any contact with outsiders...
Harsh Adventures: Books About Travel
The New York Times online
Harsh Adventures: Books About Travel
'Unconquered' Explores An Isolated Amazon Tribe
In 2002, National Geographic asked journalist Scott Wallace to chronicle the trip of a 34-man team to search for the perimeters of a people known as the flecheiros — or the Arrow People.
The Last Tribes Standing
The Wall Street Journal online
For the native peoples of the Amazon, the beginning of the end arrived one day early in 1500, when Spanish explorer Vicente Yáñez Pinzón eased his small ship into the mouth of the great river. The waterway was so incomprehensibly grand that Pinzón sailed 200 miles upstream before realizing he had left the ocean...
First Contact A Journey Into The Amazon
In his rousing book The Unconquered, veteran National Geographic journalist Scott Wallace joins Brazilian explorer and activist Sydney Possuelo on a mission to locate the Flecheiros, tribes of Brazilian Indians who have never made contact with the outside world...
Event Appearances (1)
The Unconquered: Brazil's People of the Arrow
National Geographic Live! National Geographic Headquarters, Washington, DC
I knew the men murdered in the Amazon—and their alleged killerNational Geographic
The brutal murders of a British journalist and an Indigenous rights activist this month in the Amazon hit especially close to home for me. I knew them both; I know the community and the stretch of river where the killings took place. Most uncannily of all, I know the confessed killer. His name surfaced as a suspect within a few days of the pair’s disappearance on June 5 in the Javari Valley, an immense wilderness region of rain forest and snaking rivers along Brazil’s borders with Peru and Colombia. Dom Phillips, 57, had taken time out from reporting for The Guardian newspaper to work on a book about the Amazon, and we had compared notes on several occasions about our experiences in the rain forest, sharing tips and contacts. Bruno Pereira, 41, was an Indigenous rights activist who dedicated his life to defending Brazil’s most vulnerable populations. He was a reluctant warrior—kind and gentle, the father of three children, including two toddlers.
This Indigenous man survived a 10-year Amazonian odyssey—but not COVID-19National Geographic
The Indigenous survivor of a deadly ambush that sent him wandering alone for 10 years across 900 miles of rugged highlands in eastern Brazil has died of COVID-19 symptoms, according to fellow tribespeople and rights activists. Karapiru, whose name means Hawk in his native Awá, died in a hospital in the Amazonian state of Maranhão on July 16. Although fully vaccinated, he developed severe symptoms of the disease while in his adoptive village of Tiracambu, where he had lived for the past several years. He was evacuated to the city of Santa Inés where took his last breaths.
An illegal gold rush is igniting attacks on Indigenous people in the AmazonNational Geographic
As tensions between illegal gold miners and Indigenous communities erupt into open violence in the Brazilian Amazon, legislators allied with right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro are aggressively pursuing measures aimed at curtailing protections of the territories and rights of Indigenous people. Since mid-May, prospectors have launched a series of brazen attacks against Yanomami and Munduruku communities in the states of Roraima and Pará respectively.
Coronavirus gets dangerously close to isolated ‘Arrow People’ in AmazonNational Geographic
Amid rising alarm that the novel coronavirus has reached deep into the Amazon rainforest, threatening isolated tribes, Brazil’s Supreme Court this month unanimously ruled in favor of Indigenous people’s demands to force the government to protect them from the pandemic. Even before the ruling on August 5, Indigenous groups hailed the case as an unprecedented triumph. It was the first time the high court had agreed to hear a case brought by Indigenous litigants without intermediaries, such as the Indigenous affairs agency FUNAI. The agency, whose mission is to defend the rights and lands of Brazil’s Indigenous people, has come to be seen as adversarial to their interests under the rule of hard-right president Jair Bolsonaro.
The Powers of NaturePrior
In the past year, we have witnessed cataclysmic wildfires from Australia to the Amazon, Siberia to Sumatra. Up to a billion animals perished in the Australian fires alone, while billions of tons of carbon dioxide escaped into the atmosphere. We are meanwhile racked by deadly outbreaks of zoonotic diseases, the transmission of which is aided by profit-driven destruction of natural habitats—something visionaries from tribes around the world, such as the Lakota and the Yanomami, have been warning us to halt. It has never been more urgent to listen to them. Though they account for just five percent of the global population, indigenous people hold tenure over a quarter of the world’s land surface, supporting nearly 80 percent of global biodiversity. They are the world’s premier land managers.
Disaster looms for indigenous Amazon tribes as COVID-19 cases multiplyNational Geographic
With the coronavirus spreading into remote territories across the Brazilian Amazon, indigenous leaders and rights officials are pleading with the government to adopt urgent measures to head off a catastrophe. According to figures compiled by the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), the country’s principal indigenous federation, deaths from COVID-19 in indigenous communities have risen from 46 on May 1 to 262 on June 9. Together with numbers tallied by state health departments around the country, APIB’s statistics show that 9.1 percent of indigenous people who contract the disease are dying, nearly double the 5.2 percent rate among the general Brazilian population.
First coronavirus deaths reported in indigenous communities in the AmazonNational Geographic
Brazilian officials and rights activists are warning of an impending public health calamity as reports emerge of the first deaths linked to the coronavirus among highly vulnerable indigenous populations across the Amazon region. Health workers in the northern state of Roraima reported on April 9 that a Yanomami adolescent had died of COVID-19, heightening concerns that he may have spread the disease to scores of friends and neighbors since developing symptoms three weeks ago. The youth had moved back and forth through an area rife with wildcat gold miners, and it’s unknown where or from whom he contracted the sickness.
Death stalks the Amazon as tribes and their defenders come under attackNational Geographic
Rights advocates anticipate calamity as Brazil moves amid rising violence to weaken the agency that has long worked to protect indigenous communities and their homelands.
Inside the faltering fight against illegal Amazon loggingNational Geographic
A rare look inside the Brazil's environmental protection service on operation against deforestation and illegal logging in Rondônia, a state renowned for devastation and land conflict.
Death of American missionary could put this indigenous tribe's survival at riskNational Georgraphic
The violent death of an American missionary on a remote island in the Indian Ocean in mid-November raises new and urgent questions about the survival of uncontacted and isolated tribes and their right to remain free from interference from the outside world.
Isolated Nomads Are Under Siege in the Amazon JungleNational Geographic Magazine
Protected forests in Brazil and Peru hold some of the world’s last remote indigenous groups, increasingly threatened by resource-hungry outsiders.
Brazil's new leader promised to exploit the Amazon—but can he?National Geographic
President-elect Jair Bolsonaro wants to harvest the rain forest’s riches, raising fears among environmentalists and indigenous communities. Are they justified?
Last Stand of the Amazon’s Arrow PeopleThe New York Times
Brazil is home to the largest number of uncontacted and isolated indigenous communities of any country in the world. But it is backsliding on its legal commitments to protect them.
Why Do Environmentalists Keep Getting Killed Around the World?Smithsonian Magazine
A double murder in Brazil exemplifies a disturbing trend: violence is on the rise against environmental activists worldwide. The underlying cause is tied to the expanding reach of the global economy into hitherto inaccessible hinterlands where governance is shaky and traditional, subsistence-oriented communities find themselves up against much more powerful, profit-hungry players.
Alleged Massacre of Uncontacted Tribe Linked to Gold MiningNational Geographic
Allegations of a possible massacre of an isolated indigenous group in Brazil's western Amazon highlight the dangers to the world's most vulnerable populations.
Rare Photos of Brazilian Tribe Spur Pleas to Protect ItNational Geographic
The aerial photographs show Yanomami villagers gathered in the center of a traditional, circular structure inside a sprawling reserve invaded by thousands of illegal gold prospectors.
North Into the Mountains: One Man’s Epic Rail Journey to the Darjeeling HimalayaSmithsonian Journeys Quarterly
Scott Wallace retraces his wayward grandfather’s mysterious trek to a remote mountain village in the India-Tibet borderlands, where he claimed to have discovered a 'lost tribe' in 1931.