The Sentinelese should be respected

Justin Yost, Staff Writer

An American man was killed on North Sentinel Island, part of the Andaman Islands, by the isolated tribe that lives there. The tribe is believed to be some of the first humans to migrate out of Africa and have lived on this island for the last 66,000 years. John Chau was on a missionary trip to preach the bible to the tribial people that live on the island.

The Sentinelese are one of the last, and most isolated uncontacted tribes on the planet. They have often shown their desire to stay uncontacted and have been aggressive to any outsider trying to make contact. The Indian government knows the dangers outsiders have on the tribal peoples way of life and the harm illnesses have on the Sentinelese people who don’t have immune systems that can fight they common flu, so they made it illegal to go within three miles of the island.

The Sentinelese hostility towards outsiders goes back over a 100 years ago when the first documented contact with Sentinelese occured. A British naval officer, Maurice Vidal Portman, first stepped foot on the North Sentinel Island in the late 19th century. Upon finding the Sentinelese, Portman abducted multiple members of the tribe and started performing weird and often perverted experiments on the Sentinelese. Portman kidnapped two elderly adults and four Sentinelese children and took them to a larger island that the British controlled. When the adults died of illness, Portman returned the children to the island. Not only did the children tell their people of the experiments being performed on them, but could of brought back illnesses that could wipe out their entire tribe.

It is understandable why the Sentinelese are hostile to outsiders coming their island.

Chau broke the law and paid fisherman to take him to the island. According to a journal he left with the fisherman, Chau was scared but had a calling to go the this island and preach to what he called, “Satan’s last stronghold.” I’m all for someone’s right to the freedom of religion. If you want to live your life that way more power to you, but what Chau did was wrong. He put himself in danger and he put the Sentinelese in danger not just from him, but from the police trying to recover his body. It has been 11 days since Chau was killed and police are having a hard time recovering his body. Police officers have already had tense stand offs with the tribes people while trying to approach the island. Survival International, a global movement for tribal peoples rights, has urged the police to stop trying to recover Chau’s body. Every new contact with outsiders raises the chances for the tribes people to catch a disease.

Chau knew the danger he was getting into. Writing in his journal, “I’m scared. If you want me to get shot or even killed with an arrow, then so be it.” It is illegal to go there for a reason. This tribe is unbelievably vulnerable to the outside world. Not only from disease, but from modern people in general.

Modern man is greedy. We will do and use anything for our benefit. The Jarawa people are another tribe that lives on the Andaman Islands. They are vastly outnumbered by Indians who have moved to different islands over the past decades. The Indian government tried to force the Jarawa to relocate to two settlements in the 1980s. When that failed the government decided they would let the Jarawa choose their own future and outside contact would be left at a minimum. Although this is still the official government stance, a road was put through the middle of Jarawa territory. This has brought thousands of tourists to the island and official human “safaris.” People pay to go through and see the Jarawa. Poachers go onto their land and hunt the animals the Jarawa rely on for survival. The Indian government has failed the Jarawa people, who are on the verge of extinction.

This can not be the fate of the Sentinelese. They have shown they don’t want the outside world and should be respected.