As of the time of this writing, the news is currently abuzz with stories regarding the death of an American Christain missionary named John Allen Chau. He was killed ten days ago on November 17th of 2018 after he landed on North Sentinel Island. Upon arrival, he was shot to death by a barrage of arrows from a protected people known as the Sentinelese. Chau had approached them in a kayak with the intention of bringing the word of God to the world’s oldest tribe. He was foolishly trying to convert them all to Christianity, but they wanted nothing to do with any of it. The thing to understand is that their way of life depends on total isolation, so it really is for the best that John Chau died I’m sorry to say. They resist contact and we should all respect their right to do so. On top of that, the indigenous groups living in the Andamans, among numerous other places, need to be left alone to help preserve the ever-diminishing ethnosphere of cultural heritage around the world.
As it should be, outsiders are all banned from approaching North Sentinel Island in an effort to protect the people who live there, along with their particular way of life. You see, what John Chau seems to have failed to realize is that complete isolation is absolutely necessary to keep them as safe and sound as possible, which I might add is absolutely essential. Contact with the rest of the world could put the Sentinelese at serious physiological if not psychological risk, for a number of different reasons. For one thing, the small bands of primitive people would have insufficient immunity to everyday illnesses like the flu, which could decimate their villages in no time at all. Uncontacted tribes should remain that way for a lot of reasons. The bottom line is that humanity owes it to itself to protect the inhabitants of North Sentinel Island.
So, as an example of what shouldn’t be done, back in 2006 two fishermen got too close to the natives and it cost them their lives. Then, authorities went in to recover their bodies, which was a big mistake. They should not have done that, to say the least. Sunder Raj and Pandit Tiwari were fishing in the Indian Ocean illegally, and it could have done far worse to so many more people by going in after them. The damage had already been done to the fishermen, and it should have just been left at that. Instead, after their families spoke out, the Indian coastguard tried to recover the bodies using a helicopter which was met by the customary hail of arrows. This put so many more lives in danger, and unnecessarily so at that. Again, this is the wrong move to make. The Sentinelese need to be left alone plain and simple.
Hopefully, people learn from their mistake and don’t try to go after the body of John Chau, or anyone else ever again. The Sentinelese must remain as isolated as possible from the rest of humanity for the sake of humanity. Their way of life must be preserved at all costs, even the lives of those who stray to close to North Sentinel Island, whether intentionally or not. After all, it is against Indian law to travel within 3 miles of the island, and for good reason. The inhabitants are a living link to our ancient origins, tracing back 60,000 years into the distant past. They are stone age hunter-gatherers whose culture predates the domestication of plants and animals but is now under threat in the 21st century. After their breeding pairs were diminished in the 2004 tsunami, they have recently become extremely endangered. The thing is that they can probably survive anything but total inundation or invasion. The problem is that the modern world seems dead set on bringing these right to their door.
This is unfortunate for a number of different reasons. During an attempt to communicate with the Sentinelese back in 1980, researchers were able to deduce certain things from the words the islanders yelled out at them. This is important because, in many ways, language is the basis of culture. More to the point, based on what scientists observed, the Sentinelese language seems unrelated to the Onge language spoken by the people of Little Andaman Island. It’s also not mutually intelligible with the Jarawa language. Instead, the Sentinelese language appears to be a language isolate. The point is that this is but one of the many things that make the North Sentinel Islanders unique, and therefore so very special, as well as extremely significant. The Sentinelese are unspeakably important for countless reasons. Andamanese as a whole is on the verge of never being spoken again anytime now. Only about a hundred people may speak Onge, but it’s hard to know for sure. Similarly, no one knows how few people speak Sentinelese. It might be as low as only about four or five dozen. That’s only enough for two or three dialects at most. More importantly, the oral tradition can only keep going on so long as words are spoken. Ultimately, the Sentinelese have no written history.
What if only fifty or a hundred people speak Sentinelese? How long before, and what if, that becomes zero? Better yet, think of this another way. Having mentioned the Jarawa people I think it’s important to understand what’s happening to them, as well. They are not at all untouched and have actually been infringed upon by modernity a great deal throughout the years. Simply put, the Jarawa are losing their longheld traditions and we simply can’t let that happen to the Sentinelese too. Due to the encroachment of the developing world into the Andaman Islands, the last few hundred Jarawa people left alive experience food shortages because they have to compete with poachers on a regular basis. This has caused them to alter their hunting practices, in search of different prey. As such the Jarawa have changed. They have even become part of an illegal human safari on the main road that cuts right through their territory, complete with busses filled with tourists and all. To put it bluntly, the Jarawa are in a human zoo, so just think of what would happen to hostile natives defending their land, like the Sentinelese. They would just be eradicated, and this cannot be allowed to happen!
The anthropological significance of North Sentinel Island alone is utterly incomprehensible. The Sentinelese are the direct descendants of the first modern humans to ever leave Africa. Of course, they now have reduced statures as a result of insular dwarfism, having been confined to the island for more than 3,000 generations. Still, they remain more or less unchanged from deep antiquity, and they need to stay that way. Although they have fought off intruders for millennia, it wouldn’t take much to drive them into extinction. It would be unthinkable to let them die off, though. Their world is a snapshot in time, which serves as a living record of our ancient ancestry. So, it is the duty of everyone on Earth to keep the Sentinelese fully preserved. Absolutely positively everyone other than the Sentinelese must stay away from their part of the Bay of Bengal. The slow genocide of all the Andamanese Islanders through the impositions of the developing world has to end somewhere, why not there?
Thanks for reading!