New Delhi North Sentinel is one of the most secluded places in the world. On the island lives a primitive people that refuses visits of strangers. Almost nothing is known about the people of North Sentinel. Now an American citizen has died on the island.
The failed missionary attempt by a US citizen on the Andaman island of North Sentinel may have failed, not least because of the language. "It is not completely clear what language they speak, how old they are," says the scientist Anvita Abbi, who has been studying the languages of the Andaman and Nicobar tribes for decades.
The twenty-six American citizen had been secretly brought by fishermen near North Sentinel, apparently because he wanted to convert the people who lived there completely isolated from Christianity. Already at his first landing, people attacked him. His language consisted of many bright tones, he wrote later. At the second contact attempt, he was killed.
The researchers believe that the descendants migrated from Africa to the island about 50,000 years ago. This belongs to India, but it is closer to Myanmar than to the Indian mainland. The inhabitants seem to live isolated for thousands of years from the rest of the world on densely wooded island. They hunt with spears, arrows and bows and collect edible plants and fruits. We do not know much more, because primitive people attack anyone who comes close to him.
Contact with the outside world is life threatening
"The Sentinelese want to be left alone," says anthropologist Anup Kapur. Abbi adds: "We do not even know how many there are: nobody has access to these people". And that's how it should stay. "Why should we disturb a tribe that has endured tens of thousands of years simply for our curiosity?" He asks. Many things could then be lost: people, their language, their peace.
For generations India has limited visits to North Sentinel. They limited themselves to a few gifts: coconuts or bananas, which some officials left to the islanders.
Scientists warn that every contact is potentially deadly, especially for the islanders. The other Andaman tribes were devastated by disease in the last century. Others emigrated or married foreigners.
"Even minor influences can kill them," says anthropologist P.C. Joshi from the University of Delhi. "We have become very dangerous people."
Abbi says the researchers have limited their visits to the natives a few hours a day. Even with a slight cold, the scientists stayed home.
The missionary could also have become a change of law in ruins. "The authorities have lifted one of the restrictions that protected the islands of Sentinel tribes from foreign visitors," says Survival International. Theoretically it is now possible to visit parts of the Andaman Islands, which were previously completely taboo. "It was exactly the wrong message that could have contributed to this terrible event".
Click here for the image gallery: Missionary killed in the isolated island of North Sentinel