World’s Most Isolated Tribe Makes Headlines Again

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Photo courtesy of Dinodia Photos/Alamy Stock Photo

The Sentinelese fish on one of their handmade canoes.

Gabrielle Daley, Editor-In-Chief

In the Bay of Bengal, North Sentinel Island is home to the most isolated tribe in the world, called the Sentinelese. What this tribe even refers to themselves as is unknown. This tribe is known to hate outsiders and kills anyone who reaches the island with bows and arrows. In modern society, it is believed that humans have charted the world and it’s people – but not these. What is known about the Sentinelese? Why are they a mystery to the world?

North Sentinel Island is a part of a series of islands called the Andaman Islands off the coast of India. The people on this island are believed to be descendants of people who migrated from Africa thousands of years ago. According to Survival International the women wear strings around their waists, necks and heads. Men also wear necklaces but they have a thicker waist belt than the females. They are thought to hunt and gather in the forest, and fish around the coast. The Sentinelese even make their own canoes. On the island, they have two types of houses. Some are large huts with multiple hearths and others are temporary shelters that can be seen on the beach. Despite beliefs that the tribe is caught in the “Stone Age” life has progressed throughout time for these people, they aren’t exactly stuck five hundred years in the past. They now use metal that washes up on the island in there arrows that the men carry with them.

The other tribes of the Andaman Islands were all wiped out by diseases that the British took when they tried to colonize India and its surrounding islands. The fact that the Sentinelese aren’t friendly to outsiders protected them from contacting the diseases, and is the reason why they are still there today. However, the dangers the island people impose on others hasn’t stopped various people from trying to contact them. There has been countless times people had accidentally landed on the island, some barely making it out with their lives.

North Sentinel Island is on the outskirts of India and it’s where the Sentinelese reside.

 

Survival International confirmed that in the late nineteenth century M.V. Portman, a British Officer in charge of the Andaman Islands, went to North Sentinel island to find the tribe. When his party arrived, they found a recently abandoned village. Eventually they encountered an elderly couple and some children. They kidnapped these members of the Sentinelese. Eventually, the victims became very ill after being exposed to the Europeans’ viruses and bacteria. They elderly couple died and the children were returned to the island. The spread of the diseases that the children had come into contact with probably devastated the islanders.

 

 

A century later, Indian officers began to visit the island to contact the Sentinelese. The authorities let gifts on the beach such as pigs, dolls, coconuts, bananas and iron. At times, the Sentinelese seemed to like the gifts, and other times the Indians would have arrows shot at them. Once the authorities, stated National Geographic, were even approached by the tribe without weapons, but the peace inexplicably didn’t last. In 1996 the missions stopped. The government decided there was no point in coming into contact with a tribe that was perfectly healthy and had kept to themselves for thousands of years. Exposure to modern bacteria and germs would likely wipe them all out in no time.

Recently, an American missionary named John Allen Chau was killed after trying to preach the gospel to them. According to The Washington Post, he was apart of a Christian agency based in the US called All Nations. Chau studied and trained for years to spread the word of God to this tribe. Upon arrival, he told them, “I love you and Jesus loves you”; soon after, he was shot with arrows. He then returned to the island on November 17, 2018, and didn’t survive. This incident brought the tribe back into the news and made the world question the future of the Sentinelese.

The indigenous people of North Sentinel Island have thrived on the island for 55,000 years, unbothered, and protected. If a person was to meet the Sentinelese without being killed, their very breath and being would possibly kill the entire tribe. Their isolation makes them unique in a world that seemingly is so connected. The language they speak, values and culture may never be known.