Top 10 things to know about the Sentinels, the most isolated people in the world

There are creepier places than others to get stranded by boat, Sentinel Island being one of them, as people who tried to land on North Sentinel Island, a very creepy on which lives one of the most isolated tribes in the world which we will talk about right away: the Sentinels (yes the name is logical compared to the name of the island).

1. They live on a completely isolated island

Little is known of the island of North Sentinel apart from a few satellite photos. Located in the Indian Ocean, it is part of the Andaman archipelago (Gulf of Bengal), measures approximately 72m2 and rises to less than 100 meters above sea level (close to the size of the island of Ré ). Relatively flat, it is mostly covered with trees.

2. The potential first contact with them probably shaped the others

The first real recorded (and verified) contact with the Sentinels dates back to 1880 when during a British expedition six members of the tribe were kidnapped by an army officer and his team. So inevitably it does not really make you want to be cool with the next people who try to get in touch.

3. Almost every time people have tried to get in touch it has gone wrong.

After this first attempt, as soon as people tried to get in touch with them, it happened the same way: they brandished their bows and shot arrows at people who approached, killing most of the time their targets or succeeding in scaring them away. After the Tsunami in 2004 a helicopter tried to bring them food and was forced to turn back when arrows landed on the aircraft. A scene worthy of Avatar low cost version.

4. It’s unclear how many people are in it

Since as soon as you try to approach them they shoot arrows, it’s a bit difficult to quantify the number of people who are part of the tribe. Their population is estimated at between 40 and 400 people but other sources are counting on 50 to 200 people, that gives you an idea of ​​how much we don’t know.

5. They are believed to have occupied the island for 60,000 years

It’s a paycheck as they say, but obviously the people of the Sentinels have lived on the same island for 60,000 years and would never have really left it. Completely cut off from the world, the population evolved into self-sufficiency and continues to do so to this day.

6. They survive by hunting and fishing

Who says life in autarky says resources to be found directly on the island. Sentinels hunt, fish and gather to support themselves. It is unknown what species of animals and plants are found on the island, but they do not seem to cultivate or raise livestock.

7. They make boats and discovered fire

If they do not practice breeding or cultivation (to our knowledge) and do not seem to have a lot of tools (apart from bows) we know that they make boats. These are kinds of very narrow canoes on which you cannot stretch your legs and which are only used for fishing in shallow waters. They know fire but we don’t know how they create it, with flints, rubbing wood or a good old lighter.

8. There have already been two “conclusive” exchanges with them

In 1991 an anthropological expedition was launched to approach the tribe peacefully. A few meters from the beach the team sent coconuts into the water for the Sentinels to pick up (a fruit that does not exist on the island). If weapons were raised, no shooting took place, but the anthropologists understood after two hours that the inhabitants were starting to hunt them.

A month later the team went back there, because surviving once is cool, might as well try a second chance. There the Sentinels were less shy, the members of the tribe actually got on the boat and started stealing things until it got out of hand and an islander took out his knife making the anthropologists understand that it was time to get away.

9. Contact with others could kill them

It is quite common for poachers or fishermen to go around the beaches of the island to illegally fish for turtles or lobsters and find themselves face to face with the inhabitants. The problem with this kind of contact is the fact that diseases or viruses could be transmitted by strangers to the Sentinels who would not have the immune defenses to fight against these infections, which could decimate part or all of the population. .

10. An American student tried to evangelize them and died

John Chau, an American student was convinced that these people were living badly because they did not have access to Jesus, so he decided to contact them. He traveled to the island illegally by bribing fishermen before continuing by canoe. The fishermen saw him advance towards the tribe despite arrow throws before being caught by the Sentinels who hanged him.

But as the local authorities point out, “these people are not basically violent, they defend themselves when you enter their territory but have never tried to leave their island to conquer others. We must respect their wish to remain alone. »

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