The Mintakans were a proto-Vulcan humanoid species native to Mintaka III who existed in a Bronze Age state of technology. Once the Mintakans were religious and superstitious and believed in notions such as spirits of the dead haunting the living, supernatural beings or that the stars controlled their fate.
Millennia before 2366, despite their relatively minimal technological advancement, Mintakan culture evolved to highly empirical and had long since rejected the aforementioned superstitions and had been collecting astronomical and archaeological data for several generations. It also became a tradition that Mintakan women always walked in front of the men as a sign of ownership, and to stake out a negotiating position for any services that might be asked of the man.
In 2366, a Federation anthropological team studying the Mintakans accidentally exposed the primitive culture to 24th century technology when the duck blind from which they were operating had a reactor failure. The USS Enterprise-D responded to the situation and unknowingly worsened the cultural contamination when the Mintakans observed their comings and goings. As a result, the previously discarded beliefs in supernatural beings began to resurface in the village most directly affected. This would eventually lead to their mistaking Jean-Luc Picard for the Overseer, one of their gods. To avert the contamination of their culture by the inadvertent violation of the Prime Directive, Captain Picard abducted the local leader, Nuria, in order to give her a guided tour of the ship to explain that the beings they discovered are simply mortals with advanced technology.
Unexpectedly, Nuria believed that this proved that Picard was indeed the Overseer. It took her seeing the death of one of the anthropological team to prove to her that Picard and his people were mortal. When they returned to the planet, Liko finally believed the truth when he almost killed Picard with a bow and arrow.
While cultural contamination occurred, it was relatively limited. The Mintakans gained only the knowledge that sentient life inhabited many worlds besides their own and that many seemingly impossible or divine feats, such as instantaneous transport and interstellar travel, could be achieved with a sufficiently high understanding of technology. The Mintakans were left to continue on something close to their original path of cultural evolution, as the Enterprise crew refused to allow access to advanced technology and explained that the Prime Directive proscribed additional contact or interference from the Federation and Starfleet until the Mintakans independently became a warp-capable culture many years in the future. Judging by Nuria's willingness to learn about the possibilities and limitations of a more technologically advanced life, Captain Picard was firmly confident that the Mintakans would be able to achieve the same on their own (TNG: "Who Watches The Watchers")
Knowledge of the Mintakan incidence remained restricted and highly unlikely to be possessed by a Starfleet cadet. Later in 2366, "Cadet Mitena Haro's" knowledge of the Enterprise's visit to Mintaka III led Captain Picard to realize she might be an imposter. (TNG: "Allegiance")