The Sentinelese fired arrows at an Indian Coast Guard helicopter that went to help after the 2004 tsunami
New Delhi: The Sentinelese, an aboriginal tribe of hunter-gatherers who have lived isolated from the outside world for almost 60,000 years, killed an American man who landed on one of the islands in India's remote cluster of Andaman and Nicobar. The North Sentinel Island -- home to the Sentinelese tribe -- is out of bounds for visitors. They used arrows to kill the man identified as John Allen Chau after he was illegally ferried there by fishermen, the police said. Very little is known about the tribe, one of the most protected ones in India. Scientific observation over the last three decades has gathered only elementary knowledge about them and their lifestyle.
Here are 10 things we know about the Sentinelese tribe:
- The Sentinelese are assumed to be direct descendants of the earliest humans who emerged from Africa. Their language is incomprehensible to even other tribes in the region.
- They live on an island 50 km west of Port Blair. Their numbers are believed to be less than 150 and as low as 40.
- It is said they have made little to no advancement in the over 60,000 years and still live very primitive lives, surviving mainly on fish and coconuts.
- They are very vulnerable to germs since they have not had contact with the outside world. Even a common flu virus carried by a visitor could wipe out the entire tribe.
- Since the 1960s, there have been a handful of efforts to reach out to the tribe but all have largely failed. They have repeatedly, aggressively made it clear that they want to be isolated.
- The only man believed to have succeeded in establishing friendly contact with the tribe was an Indian anthropologist Triloknath Pandit in 1991.
- In the 1981, a cargo ship MV Primrose grounded on the reef surrounding North Sentinel Island. The crew were rescued after a week by an Indian helicopter. The wreckage of the ship is still visible in satellite images.
- In 2006, the tribe killed two fishermen who strayed on to the island. They even rejected outside help after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, throwing spears and arrows at a rescue helicopter that flew above.
- The Indian government has had strict laws that ensure that they are isolated. These laws prohibited anyone from making any unauthorised contact with these isolated aboriginals.
- But in a major step earlier this year, the Indian government excluded this island and 28 others in the Union Territory from the Restricted Area Permit or RAP regime till December 31, 2022, news agency Press Trust of India reported. The lifting of RAP means foreigners can go to the island without permission from the government, PTI reported.
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