A 27-year-old American man was recently killed by an Indian tribe after he approached their remote island to allegedly try and convert them to Christianity.
The man, named John Allen Chau, paid local fishermen to take him close to North Sentinel Island, in the Andaman Islands off the coast of India, where the tribe live.
He then used a canoe to row to the beach in the hope of preaching to them. By doing this, John was already breaking a number of laws prohibiting contact with the island.
Within moments of landing on the beach, he was bombarded with arrows. According to reports, though the missionary was struck with arrows, he continued walking towards the tribe. The fishermen saw the islanders apparently tie a rope around his neck and then drag his body across the beach.
The fishermen fled in fear, but returned the next day to see his body on the shore, according to a Bay of Bengal Islands police source.
The seven fisherman who took Chau to the island have been arrested by local authorities, as it is illegal to travel to the island.
According to Metro, the fishermen have also been charged with his murder, as the tribespeople cannot be charged for the death because contact with them is strictly prohibited, in order to protect their way of life.
Chau’s body on the beach was spotted by the fishermen on their return journey, though they have not been able to retrieve it.
Contact with indigenous Andaman tribes living in isolation from the world is illegal. Estimates say the Sentinelese number is between only about 50 and 150, according to BBC News.
Journalist Subir Bhaumik, who’s been covering the islands for years, told the BBC:
Police said Chau had previously visited North Sentinel island about four or five times with the help of local fishermen.
The number of people belonging to the Sentinelese tribe is so low, they don’t even understand how to use money. It’s in fact illegal to have any sort of contact with them.
Chau is said to have made a failed attempt to reach the island on 14 November, but when he came to an agreement with fishermen they took him to a certain point before he travelled the rest of the distance in his own canoe, alone.
In a statement addressing the killing of Chau, Survival International said:
This tragedy should never have been allowed to happen. The Indian authorities should have been enforcing the protection of the Sentinelese and their island for the safety of both the tribe, and outsiders.
Instead, a few months ago the authorities lifted one of the restrictions that had been protecting the Sentinelese tribe’s island from foreign tourists, which sent exactly the wrong message, and may have contributed to this terrible event.
It’s not impossible that the Sentinelese have just been infected by deadly pathogens to which they have no immunity, with the potential to wipe out the entire tribe.
The Sentinelese have shown again and again that they want to be left alone, and their wishes should be respected.
They added how this ‘tragedy’ should be ‘a wake up call’ to the Indian authorities to properly protect the island from ‘further invaders’.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.