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Isolated tribe kills American tourist on remote island in Andaman sea. But who are Sentinelese?

The Sentinelese is a tribal society of hunter-gatherer that hunt and gather in the forest, and fish in the coastal waters. They fiercely reject all contact with the outside world that is not known to them.

india Updated: Nov 21, 2018 20:49 IST
HT correspondent
HT correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sentinelese tribe,Sentinelese kill American,US tourist killed
The Sentinelese have a record of being hostile to anyone who tries to get close. Photo: Indian Coast Guard

John Allen Chau, 27-year-old American tourist, who was out to explore a cut-off island on the Andaman Sea, was killed by a remote tribe that fiercely defends its island home, media reports said on Wednesday.

The man, according to the reports, was hit by arrows as soon as he set his foot on the island. The incident occurred on Saturday.

The Andamans are home to the 400-strong Jarawa tribe who activists say are threatened by contact from outsiders.

Chau had paid the local fishermen to take him to North Sentinel Island, which is a home to Sentinelese (also known as Sentineli). They resist contact with the outside world.

The North Sentinel Island is out of bounds even to the Indian navy in a bid to protect its reclusive inhabitants who number only about 150, AFP reported.

According to reprots, the island has been inhabited by the indigenous Sentinelese for over 55,000 years.

Who are Sentinelese?

The Sentinelese is a tribal society of hunter-gatherer that hunt and gather in the forest, and fish in the coastal waters. They also collect wild plants. It is said that the tribe does not practice cannibalism.

They fiercely reject all contact with the outside world that is not known to them.

Also read | US man, out to explore cut-off Andaman island, killed by protected tribe

North Sentinel Island is about 50-km (31 miles) west of Port Blair, the capital of the island cluster.

A member of the Sentinelese tribe photographed on a beach, shooting arrows at the Indian Coast Guard helicopter. (Photo: Indian Coast Guard/Survival International)

It was in 2004, during the Indian Ocean tsunami that the tribe attracted international attention when a member of the tribe was photographed on the beach, shooting arrows at the Indian Coast Guard helicopter that was flying around to check on their welfare.

The Sentinelese have a record of being hostile to anyone who tries to get close to them.

In 2006, two Indian fishermen, who were poaching mud crabs near the island, moored their boat to sleep and were drifted onto the shore after their anchor broke loose, were killed by the tribe, AFP reported. Three days later, their body was discovered by the Indian Coast Guard amid hostile reactions from the tribe.

Men of the Sentinelese tribe capture the boat that drifted onto the shore. (Photo: Indian Coast Guard)

Women wear fibre strings, men carry spears, bows and arrows

The Sentinelese are considered as sovereign people by the Indian government. Indian authorities make periodic checks on the tribe from boats anchored at a safe distance from shore, a report in AFP said.

According to Survival International, the Sentinelese live in three small bands and have two different types of hours. A number of families lives in large communal huts packed with hearths, while some live in temporary shelters big enough for one nuclear family with no sides.

The women of the tribe wear fibre strings tied to their necks, heads and waists, while the men wear necklaces and headbands. They also wear a thicker waist belt. Men carry spears, bows and arrows.

First Published: Nov 21, 2018 19:01 IST