Police are having a hard time trying to recover the body of American missionary John Allen Chau after he was killed by the Sentinelese
Chau was murdered by the hostile tribe after breaking Indian law in an attempt teach the tribe Christianity
Law prohibits anybody from going to North Sentinel Island in an attempt to protect the Sentinelese from the outside world
On Sunday Indian police saw the tribe armed with bows and arrows from a distance far enough away to not disturb them
Following the death of 27-year-old American missionary John Allen Chau, Indian officials are facing the grim reality that recovering his body may not be an option. On Sunday, officers on a boat just offshore of the Indian-owned North Sentinel island had a brief standoff with the Sentinelese responsible for Chau’s death.
Roughly 400 meters away from the island officers used binoculars to look at men from the tribe armed with bow and arrows on the beach near where they reportedly murdered Chau a little more than a week earlier.
According to police chief Dependra Pathak, “They stared at us and we were looking at them.” Police withdrew the boat to avoid a confrontation with the pre-neolithic tribe. Police have been carefully approaching the situation, as it is against the law to even visit the island, let alone make contact with the tribe.
Seven people — six of which are fishermen — are charged with Chau’s murder for helping him get to the forbidden island. The fishermen claim they saw the Sentinelese burying Chau’s body after shooting him with arrows before tying a rope around his neck and dragging him across the beach. The fishermen accompanied officials to try and show them the area where the body may be.
Pathak says they are studying a 2006 incident where the Sentinelese killed two fishermen after their boat drifted on shore of North Sentinel Island while they were sleeping.
We are studying the 2006 case. We are asking anthropologists what they do when they kill an outsider. We are trying to understand the group psychology.
Anthropologists and tribal welfare experts who have had very brief contacts with the Sentinelese are helping officials try and recover the body but highly doubt it will actually happen. Anthropologists have also said the tribe will not be charged for Chau’s murder.
The Sentinelese are so untouched, experts are concerned the pathogens they could possibly receive from making contact have the potential to wipe out the entire tribe that is believed only to contain between 50 and 400 people. Experts believe even the common flu could potentially push the tribe to extinction.
While some Christian groups have tried to use Chau’s death as an example of Christian persecution in India, people all over the world are outraged that he would risk wiping out an entire tribe in the name of Christianity. Adding to the outrage is the fact that not even other tribes in the area can understand the Sentinelese language. Meaning, if the tribe had accepted Chau, he would have had no way to communicate with them.
Pathak said they are taking the advice of experts in regards to trying to recover Chau’s body. That will most likely mean Chau’s body will not be recovered since the majority of experts believe it is best to leave the Sentinelese alone.
There are very few places you can find no influence from the outside world. North Sentinel Island — part of the Andaman Islands in India — is one of those places. Even visiting the island is illegal due to the risk of spreading deadly pathogens to the Sentinelese people who have no immune system against even the common flu. What developed countries consider a common cold could be detrimental to the Sentinelese people.
Along with the risk of spreading disease to one of the world’s most fragile people, the Sentinelese have made it extremely clear they want nothing to do with the outside world. Despite the risk of killing an entire tribe of protected people, or being killed by them, Christian missionary John Allen Chau believed Jesus Christ had given him the power to save the Sentinelese people.
There are reports that Chau had traveled to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands before his death, but wanted to return to out of a “strong desire to meet with the Sentinelese tribes to preach Christianity.” It is believed Chau illegally hired a fishing boat to take him from Chidiyatapu to North Sentinel Island. Chau is said to have paid $325 for the trip that a friend set up for him.
The fishermen took a boat that towed Chau’s kayak behind it. It was reported that Chau went on shore on November 15 in his kayak and sent the boat back out to sea to avoid detection. During that visit Chau is said to have brought gifts, such as a football and fish. It was not long before the Sentinelese became angry with Chau and shot an arrow at him which reportedly hit a book he had with him. Chau swam back to the boat which was in a prearranged location. He spent the rest of the night writing a journal, which he later gave to the fishermen for safe keeping.
In his journal entries, Chau claimed he tried to offer the tribe fish, but two Sentinelese guards — armed with bow and arrows — rushed at him yelling. Chau says he was close to the guards, at one point “just inches” away. In the journal, Chau wrote, “They had two arrows each, unstrung, until they got closer. I hollered ‘My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you.’”