Although this is now the 21st century when we like to think that all people in all parts of the world are as “civilized” and as “sophisticated” as we are there remain several tribes of people throughout the world who are NOT and some of those people are rather dangerous. In fact, they will kill you outright…..no questions asked.
One such tribe lives on North Sentinel Island which is in the Andaman Islands of India. They are known as the “Sentinelese” but are considered part of the Andamanese people. These people resist the modern world and are rather outright hostile to it and any intruder. As a result they remain virtually untouched by the modern world and uncontacted by modern researchers. It is believed these people have lived on the island for the past 60,000 years!
The Sentinelese are a hunter-gatherer people who mainly survive on hunting, fishing, and collecting native plants for consumption. They show no evidence of farming. They also seem to have no evidence of fire production! Their language is unclassified and is poorly understood. They are considered to be a “Scheduled Tribe” which is disadvantaged indigenous people in India. This classification is also known as the “Scheduled Caste.”
In terms of population estimates vary widely as no reliable count came be carried out because these people are so hostile to outsiders. Estimates range from 40 to 300 to 400. Officials in India must carry out their census estimates from a safe distance or from the air which, to say the least, is likely not accurate at all. Further it is still unknown what effect the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake had on these people other than that they appear to have survived.
The Sentinelese along with other Andamanese people are Negritos. This is a term applied to widely separated people in the SE Asian region. They tend to be of short stature, dark-skinned, and have afro-textured hair. It’s important to note that many researchers find no evidence of the Negritos being related to the people of Africa.
No close contact with these people has ever been established. The author Heinrich Harrer described one of the males of this secluded tribe as being about 5.3 ft tall and “left handed.” From what we can see most of the males in this tribe are indeed about the height Harrer noted.
Several attempts at contact have been made over the centuries but to no avail. They live in sheltered huts with no side walls and use palms for flooring. They also construct a few larger structures as what appear to be “communal dwellings.” Kind of like apartments in fact! There appears to be no evidence of metal working although they will collect and use metal objects that wash up on their shorelines.
Back in the 1980s a container ship ran aground on the islands coral reefs and the Sentinelese were quick to harvest the spoils including iron objects from the doomed ship! in 1880 a British expedition led by Maurice Vidal Portman had some limited contact with these people which didn’t last long.
Their weapons seem to consist mainly of javelins and flatbows. They seem to produce three different types of arrows with some used for hunting, others used for fishing, and others that have no points used for “warning shots.” Other known objects include pounding and smithing stones, woven baskets, bamboo and wooden containers. Fire is maintained in their dwellings likely via resin torches so they obviously know how to use fire but don’t produce fire, as far as we know which, in fact, isn’t much. 🙂 They have been observed from a distance using fishing nets of some kind and basic canoes. They are also known to use some sort of rack to pull down tree and bush branches to obtain fruits and nuts on the island.
In terms if treatment of outsiders by the Sentinelese people in 1880 when Portman arrived on the island the colonial administrator also arrived to oversea a survey of the island and to take a prisoner which was British policy at the time pertaining to unwelcoming tribes in the Commonwealth. The idea was basically to kidnap one of the tribesman, hold him captive but treat him well, give him gifts, and release him. This expedition was the first to the island. The tribesmen disappeared into the jungle but the expedition soon found an elderly couple with four children whom they took captive. The elderly couple became ill and soon died while in British captivity at Port Blair! They had succumbed to illness from which they had no immunity. The four children were returned to the island with gifts.
In 1967 the government of India undertook a “Contact Expedition” to the island which was overseen by the anthropologist T. N. Pandit and the administrator of tribal welfare. On the first expedition the tribesmen simply retreated into the jungle and no contact was made. Then in 1970 a research team of anthropologists arrived on the island including Pandit again. They soon found themselves cornered between the reef flats between Sentinel Island and Constance Island. The tribesmen laid down their weapons and the Indian party threw them fish from the flats. This seemed to appease the tribesmen although their aggression was still evident. They began shouting so the expedition members began shouting back that they just wanted to be friends. Then something strange happened. One of the tribes women paired off with a warrior and sat on the sane in a passionate embrace and others did the same. The couples then went into the jungle while other tribesmen stood guard. The situation could have easily gotten out of hand but didn’t.
In early 1974 a film crew from National Geographic went to the island accompanied by anthropologists. They wanted to film the documentary “Man in Search of Man.” Armed police also were part of the expedition. As their boat came through the reef the tribesmen came out of the jungle and launched a curtain of arrows on the team members! The boat landed out of range from the tribesmen on a shoreline. The crew left gifts there and then got back in the boat and went out a distance in the water. The tribesmen responded by launching another curtain of arrows at the crew! Finally, in 1996 the Indian government stopped trying to contact the tribesmen after a series of hostile encounters and even deaths resulting from arrows of these people.
In 2006 the tribesmen killed two fishermen who were fishing illegally for mud craps within range of the island. When the Indian government sent a helicopter to retrieve the bodies it was warned off by arrow firing tribesmen!
The latest encounter with the Sentinelese took place just last month (2017). Video was taken of their aggressiveness (see the Sun link below). They tribesmen fired arrows at a passing camera crew who was trying to document these people’s way of living from the sea and air. The crew was met by a curtain of arrows and hostile behavior. One crew member was even hit by one of the arrows when their boat came to close to the shoreline. The arrow didn’t kill him but certainly left a mark he’ll always remember. It pretty much looks like peaceful contact with these people is out of the question for the time being.
However, the Sentinelese are not the only “uncontacted peoples.” Other terms for such people are also used including “lost tribes” and “isolated people.” The Jarawas are one such tribe also located in the Andaman Islands. The Puroik tribe of Anunachal Pradesh in the Himalayas is another such tribe. The Bangru people living in the same area are another.
The Ruc people in North Vietnam are another such people. They were not contacted until North Vietnamese soldiers made contact with them during the Vietnam War. These people are also hunter-gatherers and live in caves. The government is trying to relocate them. There are or were also uncontacted people in Australia and New Guinea until recently as well as in Indonesia and the Philippines.
As for North America the last uncontacted people are believed to have been the Lacandon people discovered in the early 20th century. These are a Maya people in the Mexican state of Chiapas. There are uncontacted people in South America as well, in fact, many.
Returning to the Sentinelese much of their threatening behavior may be more bravado than teeth but I for one am not willing to test my hypothesis LOL. We like to think everyone in the world is just like us and wants the same things we have or want but that’s NOT TRUE! Some people are very much NOT like us and some do NOT want anything we have. From the safety of our cities (fake environments) everything looks great and civilized but out in the wild is a sometimes a far different story.
One thing I do want to mention in addition to this are the rumors that have been floating around for decades now about a “lost tribe” living in the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix, Arizona. There may be such an “uncontacted people” in this area but thus far I see no real proof or indication other than mysterious deaths and disappearances. Artifacts and video evidence would certainly be a plus to proving the existence of such a people but so far I’ve seen none. But, that doesn’t mean in the age in which almost everyone has a cellphone with a camera that that won’t change in the near future. So I’ll wait and see if such evidence comes forth before deciding whether these stories are true or not.