An island untouched by modern-day civilization.
Does it even exist? Yes, it does.
In the Indian Ocean, the Sentinelese people have lived on a small island for over 60000 years. They have been living there alone for as long as we can remember and have proven that they want to keep it that way.
They don’t want the interference of the modern world. The people of North Sentinel Island heavily attacked most people who have tried to reach them in the past.
A brief history of the island
Let me get this straight first: this tribe isn’t the only one on the planet to live with no communication with the civilized world, but it is the most covered in media or books. Now, where can we find this peculiar tribe and island?
It is in the Andaman Islands, an archipelago that contains over 500 islands under India’s government. One of these islands is the North Sentinel Island, with about 60 square kilometers, so relatively small as you would have guessed.
When you consider that most of the island is covered in jungle/forests, you can see why many explorers are kept away since they couldn’t cope with the environment.
The Sentinelese have been around for thousands of years and have settled on the island after the human species’ origination. Researchers believe that this tribe is one of the few tribes closest to the first humans who have walked the Earth.
They are mainly hunter-gatherers and use bows and arrows to hunt for food. The language they speak is totally unintelligible, even to experts or people from neighboring islands, and they live in the kinds of huts you can see depicted below.
These huts are used temporarily, and the tribe moves over the island constantly to hunt or seek cover for weather conditions like tsunamis or storms.
The first contact with modern-day civilization
In the early 1800s, the British Empire started colonization around the Andaman islands and created a penal colony. They left Sentinel Island alone. The first actual contact with the western world happened by accident.
In the summer of 1867, an Indian merchant ship went off course and bumped into the coral reefs around Sentinel Island. At least 100 passengers survived this crash and went on to explore the island, not knowing that an angry tribe would attack them three days after their arrival.
The tribe fired iron-tipped arrows, and the group of passengers started defending themselves with sticks and stones.
Simultaneously, the captain went sought help and contacted a navy ship that would eventually travel to the island to save the remaining passengers.
In 1880, a Royal Navy Army Officer called Maurice Portman led a new expedition to the island. Together with the people of the Sentinelese tribe, he went into the island forests, and they guided him to an abandoned village. There were no people to be seen other than the guides.
Portman decided to keep going and started exploring the forest even further. After several days, he found a couple more tribes, and he decided to kidnap them.
He wanted to introduce them to society, but this plan didn’t work out very well.
The group consisted of four children and two adults. The adults died because of contact with modern diseases, so they decided to return the children to the island and leave them with gifts (as if that would make up for anything).
After this interference, the island was mostly left alone other than Port Blair’s escaped prisoners made it to the island. He was killed immediately by the tribe. They clearly were done with interference from outside.
The study of the island by anthropologists
Until 1960 there was no interference with the island until anthropologist Triloknath Pandit decided to study it.
He landed on the island in 1967, and he found, just like Portman, the abandoned villages. Pandit and his crew explored the villages and left gifts in the huts, taking some items for their study.
A couple of years later, a new group of anthropologists wanted to shoot a documentary on the island.
The Indian police assisted them to protect the tribe as well as the crew but just when they arrived at the island, they were welcomed with a hail of iron-tipped arrows thrown at their boat, so they fled to the southern part of the island where the attack continued. They had to quit their journey and their documentary.
The Primrose footprint
In 1981, a ship called the Primrose sank next to the island. The crew went to the island, but soon their relief of getting onto land turned into regret because they saw the Sentinelese people running toward them with weapons.
They had to fight them off with guns and axes, and the Indian Navy eventually rescued them. The ship is still visible from above.
Now let’s get back to that anthropologist Pandit. He visited the island several times for more than 20 years until, in 1991, he finally had a peaceful meeting with the tribe. He distributed some coconuts and more gifts to the inhabitants of the island.
After this encounter, the Indian Government thought it was time to protect the island, so they stopped studying it, afraid that people would bring in modern germs and kill the tribe.
The government isn’t going to enforce the law on the island, but it’s still considered the property of the Indian Government.
One of the major events was the tsunami of 2004 when the Indian government sent a helicopter to check on the tribe if they had survived. But they seemed fine and had moved to higher grounds to be safe before the tsunami could even hit their home.
Besides some destruction on the island, this kind of tribe seems to adapt quite easily to natural changes.
Tourism hits hard
The island still has modern-day threats even though the Indian government has decided to enact a three-mile safe zone, which means no one can enter the island’s borders within 3 miles.
However, in the Andaman Islands, there are a lot of tourist exploiters that promise to show tourists ‘the oldest tribe to be found.
Some of these tour operators are ruthless and exploit all the island’s treasures and people. The guides are treating the humans like a safari tour.
Many activists were fuming, so they are aiming to protect the native people on these islands.
Sources & References
- Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, May 10). North Sentinel Island. Wikipedia. Retrieved May 13, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Sentinel_Island
- Smith, K. N. (2018, November 30). Everything we know about the isolated Sentinelese people of North Sentinel Island. Forbes. Retrieved May 13, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kionasmith/2018/11/30/everything-we-know-about-the-isolated-sentinelese-people-of-north-sentinel-island/
- YouTube. (2018). YouTube. Retrieved May 13, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmZ8Miogq54&ab_channel=HistoryWithHilbert.