Sentinelese Tribe – the only isolated group in the world

Sentinelese tribe inhabit North Sentinel Island, located in the Bay of Bengal in India. They are a part of the Andaman Islands, designated as a Scheduled Tribe.

The uncontacted people live in the island since 55,000 years and have their own native language. Their count still remains unclear, India’s 2011 census fixed their count at 39. However experts believe their population is estimated to be between 40-500.

Indian authorities have put in place laws that prohibit any individual being closer than 3 miles to the island, for both the safety of outsiders, as the Sentinelese are known to be hostile. They are violent and aggressive when you approach them.

These people should not be exposed to the outside world as their not vaccinated against any viruses. India considers these people as inhabitants in its sovereign state.

The Sentinelese are hunter-gatherers, likely using bows and arrows to hunt terrestrial wildlife and catch seafood, such as crabs. These people have not evolved beyond the stone age. They don’t practice agriculture, make fire or recognise value for metals.

Contact with the outside world

  • In the 1880s British naval officers kidnapped 6 members of the tribe. Two elders died as soon as they were taken to Port Blair, the 4 kids were given gifts and sent back to the tribe. This attempt failed.
  • After 100 years in 1967 T. N. Pandit, in a partnership with the Indian government, left gifts on the beaches. Sentinelese did not accept the gift. Pandit made many more attempts before giving up.
  • National Geographic crew wanted to make a documentary in 1974. They were accompanied by armed police officers with sufficient protection. Locals emerged from the jungle and discharged arrows at the boat as they approached the reef. The crew left gifts in the forms of a miniature plastic car, some coconuts, a live pig, a doll, and aluminum cookware and ran for their lives. Later it was noted that the tribe picked up the cookware and oil.
  • The Indian government set up a state welfare agency to make contact with tribal groups in the 90s. The Sentinelese generally did not let the contact parties get near them and so the contact teams usually waited until the armed Sentinelese retreated. The teams would then leave gifts on the beach or set them adrift towards the coastline. The Indian government ended the program after it resulted in several deaths.