After a meningitis close-call turned out to be a flu that literally gripped me by the neck and turned me into a useless lump for the week, I’m back with an interesting nugget for today’s post.
We are fortunate to live in a modern society where most things are very simple: going to the restroom, contacting a family member, nourishing oneself. What if our society never made these strides and no progress was made since our inception?
Well, that place exists: North Sentinel Island.
On January 26, 2006, two fishermen were killed when their boat drifted near the island. They were then buried into shallow beach graves. An Indian coast guard helicopter attempted to retrieve the bodies but were unable to since the tribesmen prevented the aircraft from landing. This is why it is dubbed one of the most dangerous places on Earth.
Located 1200 km from mainland India, it is one of the Andamen Islands on the Bay of the Bengal. Mostly forested, it is a land surrounded by coral reefs and lacks natural harbors. The tribe that resides here, the Sentinelese, have lived in isolation on the land for what is believed to be 60,000 years! It is estimated that they have a population between 50-400 however, the islands deep forestation makes calculating population very difficult.
The Sentinelese are among the last people to remain virtually untouched by modern civilization.
Their language is unknown and their diet is said to consist mainly of coconut and fish which can be easily found around the shores of their waters. Sentinelese canoes are constructed for fishing purposes only and can only withstand shallow waters. They appear to be hunter-gatherers since they don’t know how to agriculture. Meats consist of turtles and small birds around the island and if not for their metal-tipped arrows carved from hulls of wrecked ships, they would be described as Stone Age people.
The earliest recording of this tribe was in 1771 by British surveyor John Ricthie. Marco Polo also passed through in the late 13th Century and described them as “a most brutish and savage race, having heads, eyes, and teeth like those of dogs. They are very cruel, and kill and eat every foreigner whom they can lay their hands upon.”
Indian exploratory parties were sent in order to establish friendly relations with the Sentinelese and made brief landings on the island every few years between 1967 and 1975. The first peaceful contact was made by Trilokinath Pandit, a director of the Anthropological Survey of India, and his colleagues on 4 January 1991, a few years later in 1997 all Indian visits to the island ceased.
The Sentinelese reject all types of communication with outsiders and protect their land violently, including any attempts with authorities and anthropologists to study their culture and integrate them into modern world. Even attempts to provide assistance after the 2004 Tsunami were met with men carrying arrows, ready to attack. While no harm was caused to the Sentinelese after the 2004 Tsunami as they were able to move to higher grounds prior to, the tsunami did change the islands geography in that the lagoon was eroded making fishing more difficult but they’ve since adapted.
Due to their hostile nature and the inability to make develop any form of relationships with the Sentinelese, New Delhi has deliberately carried out little development in much of the tribal area in order to preserve the culture and people and in fear of bacterial contamination that may cause their extinction. The Andaman and Nicobar Administration has stated in 2005 that they have no intention to interfere with the lifestyle or habitat of the Sentinelese and are not interested in pursuing any further contact with them. They are to be left in isolation as they have defended over many centuries.
Below I’ve linked a video of the tribe – enjoy!
Did you know about the Sentinelese? Can you imagine being a hunter-gatherer?