Photo provided by the Indian coastguard and Survival International in 2004, a man with the Sentinelese tribe aims his bow and arrow at an Indian coast guard helicopter. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Lachlan Cornell

It is easy to forget that there are so many different lifestyles that people choose to live. And I don’t just mean cultural differences – although this may have a lot to do with it. I am talking about those who have little to no contact with the modern world and actively choose to live like this.

If I were left in the jungle alone to fend for myself, I wouldn’t last 48 hours. But to have been there since birth and for that to be all you know is something you and I can’t possibly fathom. It is fascinating that untouched tribes still exist in this modern age of space travel and smartphones. There is something quite alluring and unbelievable about it. The closest comparison I can make is if the British didn’t colonise Australia and the Aboriginal people still lived the way they did prior to 1770. Even that in itself is hard to imagine.

Comparing the lives of those who live in countries of peace and prosperity and those in a war-torn country is difficult, however, both are connected to the modern world, just in very different ways. But tribes like the Sentinelli – the indigenous people who inhabit North Sentinel Island located in the Bay of Bengal in India have totally refuted any interaction with the outside world.

The Sentinelese

The Sentinelese are hunter-gatherers and are considered a stone-age tribe as well as one of the worlds last uncontested peoples. Because of their complete isolation, nearly nothing is known about the Sentinelese language. They use rudimentary hunting and fishing techniques, sleep in huts and are shorter than the average human. During a 2014 circumnavigation of the island, researchers recorded six females, seven males and three children (under 4 years old).

In 1956, the Indian government declared North Sentinel Island a tribal reserve and introduced a 3-mile radius ban around the island. To this day it maintains a constant armed patrol to prevent intrusion from outsiders. The tribe is extremely hostile to outsiders and have killed people have attempted to land on the island.

Aerial view of North Sentinel Island

American missionary

Only earlier this year was an American missionary killed by the Sentinelese tribe after trying to convert them to Christianity. The initial response from the public after hearing this news was a siege of relentless backlash – and rightfully so. An article in the Guardian, however, clears some of this air after stating:

‘’After talking with people who knew him, and delving into the blogposts, diary writings, photos, and social media he left behind, a complicated picture emerges.

Chau’s decision to contact the Sentinelese, who have made it clear over the years that they prefer to be left alone, was indefensibly reckless. But it was not a spontaneous act of recklessness by a dim-witted thrill-seeker; it was a premeditated act of recklessness by a fairly intelligent and thoughtful thrill-seeker who spent years preparing, understood the risks, including to his own life, and believed his purpose on Earth was to bring Christ to the island he considered “Satan’s last stronghold”.

Let it be

If I am being completely honest, I still lean towards the sentiment of one comment stating he was a ‘deluded idiot’ – without taking away from the tragedy of his death and loss to his family. But the reality is, this tribe clearly wants nothing to do with the modern world, so let us leave it that way. Trying to bend this tribe to our own will and what we believe is right and true in this unexplainable universe is completely wrong. Whatever your beliefs, I’m sure your God wouldn’t want their beliefs imposed on anyone unwillingly and wouldn’t want any loss of life to occur in the process.

Lachlan Cornell
Freelance writer