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India investigates after American killed by uncontacted Sentinelese tribe

24 November 2018, 12:16 | Tara Lloyd

US missionary's death and a tribe that wants to be left alone

US national John Chau who was killed wanted to preach Christianity to Sentinelese tribe Report

John Allen Chau, 27, was killed with arrows last week when he illegally set foot on North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean after paddling there in a kayak.

Indian authorities say that Chau paid local fishermen to take him to near the island so that he could paddle the rest of the way himself.

The American missionary shot dead with arrows by an isolated tribe was so determined to introduce them to Christianity that he returned to their island even after being attacked on his first attempt to make contact, according to his diary.

Relatives of John Allen Chau have posted a statement on Instagram in which they said they were mourning him as a "beloved son, brother, uncle and best friend to us".

Pathak said officials are consulting anthropologists, tribal experts and scholars to figure out a way to recover the body. "I feel these decisions were taken hastily without considering the sensitivities that surround the lives of endangered tribes", Dennis Giles, editor, Andaman Chronicle, told ET. Indian police have since arrested seven people for allegedly helping Chau reach the off-limits island.

He wrote of manoeuvring to avoid the Indian authorities who patrol the waters near North Sentinel Island.

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No one knows exactly how many Sentinelese live on North Sentinel Island.

Till Friday evening, they had not spotted any islander on the beach, a police officer said, adding that they had taken with them one of the arrested fishermen who accompanied Chau to the island and had seen the tribals bury him.

"The Sentinelese have shown again and again that they want to be left alone, and their wishes should be respected", Survival International said.

According to Shailendra Mohan, professor in Austro-Asiatic languages with the department of linguistics at Deccan College, Pune, this tribe also appears to be slightly taller than most other tribes living on the Andaman group of islands.

Foreigners and Indians are banned from going within five kilometres of the island, to protect the Sentinelese, believed to number about 150, from outside disease.

It is said they have made little to no advancement in the over 60,000 years and still live very primitive lives, surviving mainly on fish and coconuts.

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Police investigating the apparent killing of an American by an isolated island tribe off the coast of India said they have surveyed the island by air and have carefully visited the area to identify where the man died. "Nobody has access to these people".

"Just for our curiosity, why should we disturb a tribe that has sustained itself for tens of thousands of years?" And they can die with influenza also. "So much is lost: People are lost, language is lost, their peace is lost".

Yet in August, the Ministry of Home Affairs opened the North Sentinelese Island, where the reclusive Sentinelese tribe lives, and 28 others, to tourism.

Described as "arguably the most enigmatic people on our planet", by Norwegian geneticist Erika Hagelberg, the wider group of Andaman Islanders, which comprises several distinct tribal groups, was largely isolated until the island chain was turned into a British penal colony in the 19th century.

Survival International, an organization that works for the rights of tribal people, said Chau may have been encouraged by recent changes to Indian rules about visiting isolated islands in the Andamans.

While special permissions are still required, visits are now theoretically allowed in some parts of the Andamans where they used to be entirely forbidden.

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His initial contacts with the Sentinelese, a tiny tribe of hunter-gatherers who reject contact with the outside world, had not gone well.

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