Have you ever heard about the mysterious North Sentinel Island? It’s located in the Bay of Bengal, between Myanmar and Indonesia. While it’s officially administered by India, its inhabitants have never been colonized or even made contact with. Can you believe it? So, this island is actually home to one of the last Stone Age tribes on Earth whose culture has remained completely untouched by modern civilization: the Sentinelese people.
No one dares to set foot on the island, as anyone who has tried to explore it has been attacked or killed. I suppose this extreme hostility is what prevented the march of colonialism which annihilated other native populations in the past several centuries. What’s more, the North Sentinel Island is so dangerous that the Indian government has established a 3-mile exclusion zone to prevent anyone getting too close.
Throughout the past, several contacts have been established with the Sentinelese tribe.
In 1896 a Hindu man escaped from prison but unluckily ended up on the North Sentinel Island on a makeshift raft. The prisoner was found several days later on a beach, with his body completely perforated by arrows and his throat slit.
On August 2, 1981, when a ship named “Primrose” hit the shallow North Sentinel Island reef, the crew saw men with bows and spears on the beach. The captain tried to establish radio communication and ask for help but didn’t receive it. Fortunately, the crew was prevented from going further due to troubled waters, and they were rescued by a helicopter a few days later.
In 2004, after the Indian Ocean earthquake, the Indian government sent a helicopter to check on the Islanders. But, while other surrounding islands were damaged badly, the Sentinelese remained unharmed. As the helicopter flew above, several tribesmen started shooting arrows and throwing stones at it.
In January 2006, two people who were illegally fishing for crabs were killed, and when a helicopter attempted to retrieve their bodies, it was shot down with arrows.
According to Survival International, which advocates for tribal people’s rights, the Sentinelese are ‘the most vulnerable society on the planet‘ since they probably don’t have immunity to common diseases such as flu and measles. Furthermore, the organization believes there’s a high chance they will be wiped out by an epidemic since they’re completely isolated.
However, all in all, the general public doesn’t know much about the Sentinelese people. They have probably inhabited the island for about 60.000 years. After spending so much time in isolation, it’s no wonder they’re so hostile to outsiders. It’s also believed that the tribe consists of 50-400 members who survive exclusively by hunting, gathering, fishing or eating coconuts. Although it’s difficult to observe the island from above due to the deep tree canopy, it has been established that its inhabitants are not familiar with agriculture.
Although violence shouldn’t be condoned, their violent drive to protect the culture from the outside world is most likely the reason they have survived many years in isolation, while other indigenous tribes have been wiped out. For now, the Indian government allows the native people to preserve this isolation. Who knows how long they will manage to live in the middle of the ocean unaware and uncaring of the “civilized’ rest of the world. But, one thing’s certain. They are some of the last truly sovereign people on Earth and will be remembered as such.