Introduction to the Sentinelese and North Sentinel Island

The Sentinelese are a tribe of indigenous people who have lived on North Sentinel Island for thousands of years. Located in the Bay of Bengal, the island is small and isolated. The Sentinelese are known for their hostility towards outsiders and have been called the “most isolated tribe in the world.”

Sentinelese people of North Sentinel Island
North Sentinel Island

History of Interactions with the Sentinelese

Interactions with the Sentinelese

Interactions between the Sentinelese and outsiders have a complex and often tragic history. In the 1800s, British colonial officials made the first recorded encounter with the Sentinelese. In the following years, several attempts were made to “contact” the Sentinelese and convert them to Christianity. These efforts were met with violence and resistance from the Sentinelese.

Efforts to “Civilize” the Sentinelese

Efforts to “Civilize” the Sentinelese

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Indian government tried to “civilize” the Sentinelese through various efforts. These included dropping gifts from helicopters and sending teams of anthropologists and officials to the island. However, these efforts were also met with violence, and the Sentinelese remained fiercely independent and isolated.

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Restrictions on Visiting the Island

Restrictions on Visiting the Island

The Indian government declared North Sentinel Island a restricted area in the 1980s and made it illegal to visit the island without permission. Despite this, there have been instances of outsiders attempting to visit the island and facing aggression from the Sentinelese.

In 2006, the Sentinelese killed two fishermen who had anchored their boat near the island. In response, the Indian government set up a 3-mile exclusion zone around the island and increased efforts to monitor the Sentinelese from a distance.

Sentinelese Culture and Way of Life

Sentinelese Culture and Way of Life

The Sentinelese have a unique culture and way of life on North Sentinel Island. It is believed that they exist primarily for fishing and hunting and have a complex system of social organization. However, very little is known about the Sentinelese because they have had minimal contact with the outside world.

Status as an Endangered Tribe

The Sentinelese are an endangered tribe with a population of only around 50 individuals. Their isolation and hostility towards outsiders have helped to protect them from diseases and other threats. However, it has also made it difficult for outsiders to provide them with assistance or aid.

Respect for the Sentinelese’s Right to Self-Determination

Despite the challenges, some believe the Sentinelese should be left alone to peacefully live their traditional way of life. It is important to respect the wishes of the Sentinelese and their right to self-determination.

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The Death of John Allen Chau, The American Who Tried To Visit The North Sentinel Island

John Chau

John Allen Chau was an American missionary who attempted to visit North Sentinel Island in November 2018. Indian authorities had warned Chau not to visit the island, but he had made several previous attempts.

Chau arrived on the island by canoe on the day of the incident and was immediately met with aggression from the Sentinelese. He returned to the mainland after this initial encounter but returned to the island a few days later and was killed by the Sentinelese. His body has not been recovered.

The incident caused widespread debate and controversy. Some argued that Chau was foolish to ignore the dangers and rights of the Sentinelese, while others believed he was trying to do good by bringing Christianity to the tribe.