North Sentinel Island is an island located in the Bay of Bengal, bordered by India, between Myanmar and Indonesia.
It is home to possibly the most isolated tribe of people left on Earth, a people who have never been brutally colonized or even made communication with. They are among the last “Stone Age” tribes on the planet, with culture unscathed by the modern era: the Sentinelese people.
(Image credit: Google)
(Image credit: the Mind Unleashed)
India claims ownership over the island, but they can’t enforce their laws on it. No one dares to visit and approach the tribe: anyone who has ever tried to come onto the island was attacked or killed. Their intense hostility is what must have saved them from the brutal, all annihilating march of colonialism, which annihilated native populations around the planet for the past several centuries.
(Image credit: Atlas and Boots)
The Sentinelese (given that title by others, of course) are believed to have inhabited their island for about 60,000 years. They have maintained such a disciplined protection of the island, the state of India has made it illegal to approach the island closer than 3 miles.
Therefore, the general public knows little about them. Some estimate that the tribe consists of between 50 and 400 members, living completely off of hunting and gathering, fishing and eating coconuts.
Due to the thick canopy of trees on the island, it is difficult to study from above: and perhaps for good reason. Maybe one little slice of the Earth should not be subject to aerial surveillance, if not a lot more.
Experts claim that the Sentinelese are unfamiliar with agriculture, and only gather existing coconuts, fish, and other things to consume.
This is a brief timeline of contacts with the Sentinelese tribe:
1896- A Hindu prisoner escaped captivity, only to end up on North Sentinel island on a makeshift raft. His body was found days later washed up on the shores of a beach, injured by arrows and with a slit throat.
August 2, 1981- A ship named “Primrose” came into the dangerously shallow North Sentinel island reef, when the ship crew saw men with bows and spears on the beach. The crew was lucky to go no further, due to troubled waters, and they were rescued by helicopter after a few days.
According to the Daily Mail: “Survival International reported late last year that it had received reports that fishermen are targeting the area, with seven men being apprehended by the Indian Coast Guard.
One of the fishermen reportedly stepped foot on the island in close proximity to the tribe’s members, and he managed to leave unscathed.
Survival International, which advocates for tribal peoples’ rights, describes the Sentinelese as ‘the most vulnerable society on the planet’ as they are likely to have no immunity to common diseases such as flu and measles.
Due to their complete isolation, the chances of them being wiped out by an epidemic are very high, according to the organization.”
2004- After the violent Indian Ocean earthquake in 2004, the state of India sent a helicopter to check on the tribe. Somehow, the inhabitants of the island knew to move away before the waves struck. Surrounding islands were damaged worse.
As the Indian helicopter flew above, the tribespeople threw stones and shot arrows at it.
January 2006- Two men were illegally fishing in the area, and were killed. A helicopter attempted to retrieve the bodies, but was unable to due to a shower of arrows aimed at him.
Although there’s nothing nice about violence or the nature of power on this Earth, this is what it took to resist colonization for these people. They are among some of the last truly sovereign people on the planet, and one day they will be remembered as such.