Who are Sentinelese? Here’s how American John Chau described one of the last isolated tribes in the world

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New Delhi | Published: November 30, 2018 5:47:45 PM

As much as it sounds shocking, it is also quite interesting that a tribe like the Sentinelese exists even in the 21st century which still lives in isolation, all on their own by their ancient rock-age ways.

Sentinelese, Jarawas and Sentinelese tribe, how did sentinelese tribe survive tsunami, sentinelese language, sentinelese pronounce, john chau sentinelese, sentinelese andaman, sentinelese island andaman, sentinelese tribe of andaman, Jarawas and sentinelese, madhumala chattopadhyayTitled “Observations”, Chau?s detailed note was recovered from a fisherman, who reportedly dropped him off at the island, by the Andaman police.

As much as it sounds shocking, it is also quite interesting that a tribe like the Sentinelese exists even in the 21st century which still lives in isolation, all on their own by their ancient rock-age ways. The Sentinelese or the Sentinels or the North Sentinel Islanders are a group of indigenous people who are inhabited in the North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal in India. Since their island is a part of the Andaman Islands, the people of their tribe are often considered to be one of the Andamanese people. Recently, an American missionary John Allen Chau, who is feared to be killed by the Sentinelese tribe, reportedly left a note describing the Islanders. In his last note to the world, Chau numbered the tribe at 250, reported Hindustan Times. In his efforts to understand the Sentinelese, Chau also put some light on the social hierarchy that exists in the tribe in his note.

Titled “Observations”, Chau’s detailed note was recovered from a fisherman, who reportedly dropped him off at the island, by the Andaman police. The fisherman, S Jampo, along with four others, has been taken under arrest for dropping Chau on the island where outsiders including Indians are not allowed. 27-year-old Chau was an adventurer and missionary who wanted to bring Christian religion to the Islanders. Chau’s study of the islanders has been shared with anthropologists, in hopes to get some tips on retrieving Chau’s body. Despite Chau not being an anthropologist, his observations of the tribe are very less known by people around the globe and also makes for an informative read. A few facts discovered about the tribe from Chau’s note are:

1. Leadership system

The Sentinelese, according to Chau, appeared to have a single leader who had met Chau when he arrived on the island on the morning of November 15. The man had worn a white crown made of flowers and ‘took a leadership stance’. He climbed on the top of a rock and yelled at Chau, probably because of the latter’s presence on the island.

2. Incomprehensive language

In his note, Chau went on to describe how the Sentinelese conversed with each other. Chau, who belong to Alabama in the United States, wrote that people of the tribe made ‘high pitched sounds’ while talking. Letters such as b, p, l, and s were used in their conversations. Since nothing about the Sentinelese language was understandable, Chau guessed that tribe’s people ‘probably exchanged a lot of insults’. Chau tried to talk to them in a language spoken by the Jarawas, a tribe from South and Middle Andaman, but the Sentinelese didn’t seem to understand it.

3. Beautiful topography

Describing the topography of the North Sentinel Island the Sentinelese live on, Chau said that the sand of their beach is white but coarse. Chau is reportedly the first outsider to have sneaked into the island in a span of 12 years. He described the seabed leading up to the beach as one with dead corals but a very clear bottom. His note said, ‘There is an amazing surf beach at the entrance of the south part of the cove.’

4. Arrows for attack

Interestingly, the Sentinelese still used arrows to attack. Their arrows are reportedly very thin and sharp and have a metal tip, probably made from metals collected from wrecked ships salvaged by the Islanders. Even a juvenile of the tribe knows how to shoot an arrow. A 10-year-old shot an arrow at Chau but it hit his Bible and didn’t pass through. Noticing their gestures, Chau noted that arms in the air suggested friendliness, pointing fingers suggested directing towards a location and arrows in the bow meant they are ready to shoot.

5. No old people

In his note, the missionary also mentioned that he saw no old people on the island, which suggested that they lived separately on some other part of the North Sentinel Island. Chau noted that some huts on the island housed near about 10 people each and some could have had around 50 inside them. The Indian government, in 2004, reportedly conducted an aerial survey of the island and estimated the number of people to be between 40 to 200. The Islanders shot arrows at the helicopter then as well.

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