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  • The endangered Sentinelese tribe, which lives in voluntary isolation, killed a U.S. tourist trying to illegally reach their territory.

    The endangered Sentinelese tribe, which lives in voluntary isolation, killed a U.S. tourist trying to illegally reach their territory. | Photo: Indian Coast Guard

Published 21 November 2018

A U.S. citizen tried to trespass an island inhabited by an off-limits endangered tribe in India to preach Christianity only to be killed by their arrows. 

The endangered and protected Sentinelese tribe living in North Sentinel island of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, in India’s eastern territorial waters, killed a tourist from the United States with an arrow after he tried trespass the off-limit island.

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John Allen Chau, who had been to Andaman numerous times in the past, expressed his desire to preach and convert the Sentinelese to Christianity.

On Nov. 14, he attempted to reach the island of North Sentinel and after failing to do so, he tried it again on Nov. 16. As soon as he reached the shore, a volley of arrows was fired towards him but he kept on walking according to the fishermen who helped Chau reached the island.

Seven fishermen were arrested by Indian police for illegally ferrying Chau to Sentinelese territory. According to them, the tribesmen dragged Chau to the beach.

“The fishermen saw the tribals tying a rope around his neck and dragging his body. They were scared and fled but returned next morning to find his body on the sea-shore,” an anonymous source told AFP news agency.

His body has not yet been retrieved. Authorities in the islands launched a helicopter search operation but cannot go near the island as it is off-limits.

The Sentinelese community is believed to be the last pre-Neolithic tribe in the world. They were among the first people to have migrated out of Africa and believed to be inhabiting in the Andaman island for over 60,000 years.

"The number of people belonging to the Sentinelese tribe is low... It's, in fact, illegal to have any sort of contact with them,” Subir Bhaumik, a journalist covering the island told BBC Hindi.

In 2017, the Indian government made it illegal to take photographs of the Aboriginal tribe which would be a punishable offense with imprisonment up to three years.

London-based Survival International has been campaigning to protect the Indigenous tribes living in the Andamans.

The Sentinelese tribe is vulnerable to outside contact. Due to their complete isolation, they have no immunity even to common illnesses such as flu and measles.

“It's not impossible that the Sentinelese have just been infected by deadly pathogens to which they have no immunity, with the potential to wipe out the entire tribe," said Stephen Corry, the international director of Survival International.

“The Sentinelese have shown again and again that they want to be left alone, and their wishes should be respected," he said.

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