Sentinelese tribe: An isolated community in Andamans with no contact to the outside world

04:20 PM Nov 23, 2018 |

An American national John Allen Chau was killed by members of the protected and reclusive tribe in the Andamans, possibly with arrows, when he tried to enter the North Sentinel Island. But, what exactly is the Sentinelese tribe?

If you think that poor villages of India are among the most underdeveloped places in our country, then you must have not heard about the North Sentinel island. The island located in the Andaman and Nicobar consists of Sentinelese people, who reject any contact with the outside world. The island is deprived of any scientific or technological developments, and people living in the islands are among the last people to remain virtually untouched by the modern civilisation.

The island is located in the Bay of Bengal, 50 km west of Port Blair. North Sentinel is surrounded by coral reefs, and the entire island is covered by forest. Inhabited by Sentinelese with an estimated population between 40 to 300, the island is considered a sovereign area under the protection of Indian government. The Indian government has also maintained 3 nautical miles (5.6 kilometre) exclusion zone along the island.


This decision was taken by the Indian Government due to the incidents of attacks by the Sentinelese on other people trying to visit the island. Sentinelese have attacked many tourists and exploratory parties visiting the island, killing some of them with weapons of bows and arrows. So, the Indian government has recognised the islanders’ desire to be left alone.

In 1880, an expedition to the island was made by a British Government administrator Maurice Vidal Portman, who intended to research the natives of the island. Six natives, including an elderly couple and four children were captured during the expedition and brought to Port Blair. Unfortunately, the entire group sickened rapidly resulting in death of the elderly couple, so the children were sent back to the island with many presents.

Later in 1981, an expedition was made by cargo ship MV Primrose. After the ship landed at coral reefs of the island, the crewmen after several days noticed Sentinelese preparing for attacks by making boats. The crewmen were later rescued by an operation by ONGC. The first peaceful contact with Sentinelese was made by Triloknath Pandit, a director of the Anthropological Survey of India, in 1991 and visits to the island halted after 1997.

Sentinelese survived the 2004 Tsunami and its after effects, and rejected any help made by the Indian rescue teams. In 2007, two Indian fishermen were killed by the islanders when they went too close to the islands while fishing. Since then, there has been no contact between Sentinelese and rest of the world, until John Allen Chau’s attemtp.

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