“Hit By Arrows, Kept Walking”: American Killed by Sentinels in Andaman

An American man was killed by a protected tribe in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
An American man was killed by a protected tribe in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

An American man was killed by a protected tribe in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the police said today. Seven fishermen who took 27-year-old John Allen Chau to North Sentinel Island, where the indigenous Sentinelese people live, have been arrested, the police said.

The Sentinelese, whose population in 2011 was estimated at 40, are known to resist contact with the outside world. Activists say the tribes are at threat from outsiders, who often bribe locals to access them.

The fishermen told the police that they last saw the American man facing a flurry of arrows after he landed on the island towards the southern Andamans on November 16. The tribes dragged the American to the beach, they said, adding that moments later as they were sailing away they saw Mr Chau’s body half-buried in the sand.

North Sentinel Island is home to dangerous stone age tribe

On screen, we have seen the stories of stone-age natives, hiding deep inside the Asian or South American rain forests, far from our knowledge. Such movies are often gore, depicting exotic locales, cruel behaviors, extending as far as to include cannibalism, at times. While you may think that the tales of such dangerous and forbidden lands are restricted to the movies, in reality, there exist several islands which encapsulate the most untouched tribes in the world.

Located far into the Bay of Bengal, in the Indian Ocean, North Sentinel Island is one of the Andaman Islands. It is home to the most dangerous tribe in the world, known as the Sentinelese tribe. Their numbers around 50-400 people, with their numbers, steadily growing.

The tribe is still equipped with javelins, arrows, flatbows, fishing nets, and basic outrigger canoes which they use for fishing and hunting. There is no evidence of agriculture there, and it isn’t clear how do they make a fire. They speak a weird language and want to remain far from the contact of the modern civilizations. They fear our intervention into their culture so much that even if they spot a helicopter flying over the island, they don’t hesitate to shoot the warning shots to ward off the helicopter.

North Sentinel Island

Time and again, the Sentinelese have rejected the outsiders violently. In the year 2006, the tribe killed the two fishermen who had unknowingly reached the island. They have, apparently, decided to attack every outsider who would ever try to step into their territory. They have secured themselves enough with bows, arrows, and spears, against the intruders. This is the reason that even the Andamans’ locals have never dared to build any kind of connection with them.

As the tribe has successfully maintained its cut off from the world, from its beginning till this date, not much is known about them. However, going by their history, it comes to light that this tribe has been living self-sufficiently on their land for nearly 60,000 years, now.

The first recorded mention of the tribal island was made in the year 1771 by a British surveyor, John Ritchie who passed the island on a survey vessel. In the year 1867, Jeremiah Homfray, who was the officer in charge of the Andamanese, journeyed to North Sentinel Island, with his team, and saw some men on the beach naked, long-haired, and with bows and arrows. While the Sentinelese on spotting the boat hid away, those on boat decided not to land. The summer of 1867 witnessed some people got stuck at the Sentinel island. A group of 86 passengers and 20 crewmen survived the wreckage of the Indian merchant ship, the Nineveh, but were attacked by the Sentinelese. However, these large group of people fought against their attacks using sticks and stones, until a Royal Navy ship was sent to rescue the survivors. It is believed that later in the year 1880, an armed British expedition made a successful landing on the island and made certain discoveries. He disclosed thatSentinelese methods of cooking resembled those of the Onges, the hunter-gatherers. While all the Sentilese people went underground somewhere, escaping the sight of Portman, six  Sentinelese –  an elderly couple and four children were captured by him, and his team. All of them were brought to Port Blair, but they wouldn’t able to cope with the surroundings. On learning that the elderly couple died, the children were sent back to their homes.

In the year 1967, Indian anthropologist, Triloknath Pandit accepted the offer to be the first anthropologist to travel to the island. He was appointed by the governor of Andaman as the Director of Tribal Welfare. The government was trying to establish a friendly relation with the Sentinelese people. When Pandit, along with an army of police and naval officer, traveled to the place, the Sentinelese got hid in the jungle and tried to make no contact. In a friendly gesture, the party left gifts for them such as clothes, candies, and buckets, in their empty huts. With India regaining its Independence, in the year 1947, it gained the control of Andaman Islands but chose to ignore the Sentinelese.

Under the provisions Andaman and Nicobar Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation- 1956, in the year 1991, the Indian government added a 5km exclusion zone around the North Sentinel Island. It was the government’s idea to leave the tribe undisturbed, and at the same time, ensure the safety of the fishermen, poachers, and tourists from their tribe.

Sentinelese people attacked helicopter

When in 2004, an earthquake hit the Indian Ocean, an Indian coast guard helicopter was sent over the North Sentinel Island. It wasn’t well received by them and was constantly attacked. Since then, the Indian government has given it a recognition of a sovereign unit and has decided to let them in peace on their island.

It is a matter of sheer shock to realize that when our world is developing day-by-day, on the basis of some or the other introduced new technology, there are people who have never seen the other side of their world – they might need us or they might be heading towards their eventual doom. Who knows? Wish we could understand their language and vice versa!

Do you think we should leave the Sentinelese alone? Your say is important. Leave the comment, below.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here