Richard Feynman created the concept of cargo cult science, which are activities that look scientific but aren't. He based it metaphorically on cargo cults in the Pacific:
In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they've arranged to imitate things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas—he's the controller—and they wait for the airplanes to land. They're doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn't work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they're missing something essential, because the planes don't land.
Do Cargo Cults, as described by Richard Feyman where Pacific Islanders imitate western artefacts and culture in the hope of material wealth, exist?
Wikipedia has an article on cargo cults. Based on the material there, it seems plausible that some activities existed that are called cargo cults by at least some anthropologists, though it may not represent what is thought of as cargo cults by the general public. There are also some references in the article that support the description of cargo cults as matching those in the general perception, but a lot of the citations are either to journal articles (probably too specialised), books (probably inaccessible), or news articles (not too trustworthy, even if it's the BBC).
I'm kind of skeptical because the story of cargo cults seems too good a tale for people to have the heart to debunk it, and because I tend to be suspicious in general about anecdotes about other societies or groups being ignorant, even if they're Americans.