The Hidden Secrets of North Sentinel Island


Becca Ford, Staff Writer

North Sentinel is an obsolete island in the Bay of Bengal, yet it is homeland to one of the last populations untouched by modern civilization. The Sentinelese tribe has rejected all forms of communication with the outside world and have been hostile and protective of their lands to all who attempt to establish contact. Although the exact number is unknown, an estimated 40-500 tribes people have lived in the area of the world for around 60,000 years. They have resisted all attempts for scientists to study their culture and history. The Sentinelese have been known to be hunters and gatherers across their island. No outsiders know the language at which they communicate within the island of North Sentinel. Their culture is like the Stone Age or Cavemen era. Armed with bow and arrows and a thorough knowledge of the land, the Sentinelese have murdered all who had wander upon their land or those to try to convert their population.

The latest victim was John Allen Chau, a Christian Missionary. His goal was to spread his religion to one of the last isolated tribes. He traveled to North Sentinel armed with only a Bible and a belief. Chau was known as an adventurous soul full of wanderlust. It was no surprise when he defied laws and traveled to North Sentinel to teach the islanders about God and the beliefs of Christianity.

The trip was illegal, as the Sentinelese are protected by Indian authorities, who acknowledge the tribes wishes to be left alone from the outside word. According to John Chau personal journal, he faced open hostility among the populist as he attempted to convert them to Christianity. He made several trips on and off of the island, returning to the fishing boat twice upon which he crossed in the bay earlier in October 2018. Between the trips, Chau returned to the boat baring arrow wounds and towing a broken canoe.

In November 17th, the fishermen, who Chau paid to take him to the island, saw tribesmen dragging John Allen Chau’s body across the beach. The Indian authorities prosecuted the fishermen who took him to the island, but they respect the Sentinelese’s wish to be isolated and they accept them killing all outsiders who hope to travel to the island. A friend who helped Chau organize the trip was also arrested. The friends and family of Chau have requested that his body get retrieved from the islanders, but the police does not plan on confronting the Sentinelese and have not strategy for getting the body back to the United States.

This is not the first account of this activity from this unique island, there have been several outsiders killed by the Sentinelese. In 2006, two fishermen were shot by arrows after drifting close North Sentinel island, in the Bay of Bengal. The fishermen, Sunder Raj and Pandit Tiwari, were illegally poaching mud crabs, when their anchor failed to secure their boat and they moved into the currents.  Their boat accidentally washed ashore and created perfect hunting grounds for the Sentinelese warriors. Their families’ raised alarm and requested the return of the bodies, but when the Indian Coast Guard’s helicopter traveled over the island, it was met with a volley of arrows. Their bodies remained on the island with the Sentinelese.

After the devastating tsunami of 2004, a helicopter was sent to check on the welfare of the tribe and report back to the Indian government. That helicopter was also met with hostility, and a Sentinelese warrior from the tribe attacked the helicopter, peppering the vehicle with Stone Age-like arrows.

Although those who travel to island are in danger, the islanders are at constant risks from outsiders as well. The tribe has been cut off from society for thousands of years, thus they have not been exposed to the Pathogens that are frequent in today’s culture. Outsiders are not the only people at risk when in contact with North Sentinel island, the islanders are also put into danger when outsiders brake laws and visit the community.