Dead Missionary’s Contact with Tribe Might Cause Their Extinction

Dead Missionary’s Contact with Tribe Might Cause Their Extinction November 23, 2018

Earlier this week a missionary from the United States, John Allen Chau, decided to take his “work” to a remote island off the coast of Myanmar. North Sentinel Island, part of the Andaman Islands, is home to the only remaining undisturbed tribe in the world. Indian law forbids individuals from visiting the island due to a history of hostile and violent exchanges with the Sentinelese. His attempt to bring Jesus’ love to the tribe ended by the tribe killing him. Organizations dedicated to protecting the tribe are now concerned John’s contact with the tribe may lead to their extinction.

For more than 60,000 years, anthropologists believe the Sentinelese have inhabited the island of North Sentinel. Because of limited contact with the tribe, very little is known about their culture and language.

According to Survival International, North Sentinel is the size of Manhattan. Most information gathered about the tribe has been by observations from boats moored near the shore.

Other information obtained about the group came during a rare friendly exchange with the tribe in the 1990s. The Sentinelese allowed Indian authorities to get close enough to the shore to hand them coconuts.

From these observations, the Indian government learned a little about the group. The Sentinelese live on an island densely populated by forest and brush. Due to the landscape, the tribe does not grow their food. Instead, they appear to live off forest vegetation, hunt, and fish in coastal waters.

Authorities believe the Sentinelese live in communal huts with space for multiple families. Indian officials have also noted small temporary shelters near the coast with no sides. The little structures are large enough for one family.

For the most part, the Sentinelese wear no clothing. Men wear headbands, necklaces, and wide waist belts. Men carry arrows, bows, and metal tipped spears. Women wear fiber strings tied around their heads, necks, and waists.

Observers say that the tribe appears strong, healthy, and proud from a distance. The men are lean and muscular. On one visit, authorities noted the saw many pregnant women and children.

According to reports, the Sentinelese language is part of the Andamanese language family. Initially, authorities assumed their language was similar to the Onge language of the nearby Jarawa tribe.

However, on two documented trips to the island, authorities brought Onge-speaking individuals with them hoping to be able to communicate with the tribe. Unfortunately, the tribe did not understand the Onge language and communication between the groups was not possible.

For years officials from Britain and India have attempted to contact the tribe. However, the tribe is hostile and defensive when anyone tries to make contact with them. The group made international headlines in 2004 after an Asian Tsunami.

Following the tsunami, the Indian government flew a helicopter over the island to determine if the tribe needed assistance. The tribe greeted them by shooting arrows at the helicopter and forced the aircraft to fly away.

Over the past three hundred years, the Sentinelese consistently resist outside contact. Due to their unwillingness to engage with the outside world, the Indian government decided to abandon efforts to engage with the people.

Due to the island location of the Sentinelese, the isolation makes them unique to all other tribes in the world. No other people live on the island but the Sentinelese. They know nothing about electricity, the internet, or the global economy. While the world around them continues to modernize, the Sentinelese remain content in their way of life.

Tribal organizations protect the group. Over the years, the tribe numbers have diminished considerably. Authorities believe less than 50 Sentinelese are remaining on the island.

Because of their isolation, the tribe does not carry immunity to viruses common in the modern world. Illnesses like influenza could easily wipe out the entire population. For this reason, the Indian government and tribal groups protect the Sentinelese from exposure. No one is permitted to go within five nautical miles of the island to ensure the Sentinelese remain unexposed to unfamiliar pathogens.

While many remain outraged at the death of John Chau, individuals tasked with protecting the tribe are outraged by Chau’s contact with the group. Survival International released a statement about the risk Chau’s visit imposed on the tribe.

In the statement on their website, Director Stephen Corry stated:

“This tragedy should never have been allowed to happen. The Indian authorities should have been enforcing the protection of the Sentinelese and their island for the safety of both the tribe, and outsiders.

“Instead, a few months ago the authorities lifted one of the restrictions that had been protecting the Sentinelese tribe’s island from foreign tourists, which sent exactly the wrong message, and may have contributed to this terrible event.

“It’s not impossible that the Sentinelese have just been infected by deadly pathogens to which they have no immunity, with the potential to wipe out the entire tribe.

Uncontacted tribes must have their lands properly protected. They’re the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. Whole populations are being wiped out by violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases like the flu and measles to which they have no resistance.

While many express their outrage by Chau’s death, the real victims in the tragedy are the Sentinelese people. These people are content in their lives. Despite hundreds of years of attempts to make contact, the group remains uninterested in the modern world.

Chau’s mission to spread the word of Jesus was selfish and self-serving. According to notes he left with the fishermen that took him to the island, he understood the risks and dangers of going to the island. He wrote they sailed to the island at night to avoid detection by the Coast Guard.

Chau completely negated all laws set up to protect these people from extinction.

In notes obtained by CNN from the fisherman, Chau wrote, “Lord, is this island Satan’s last stronghold where none have heard or even had the chance to hear your name?”

Friends interviewed by reporters said Chau knew that laws prohibited his mission to the island. He knew the history of the violent contact between the Sentinelese and outsiders.

In the face of all that information, he still made the irresponsible choice to contact with the Sentinelese.

While his friends and Christians are hailing his death as a martyrdom for Christianity, I believe his death by the Sentinelese was justified and expected. The tribe doesn’t know the language Chau speaks, and the group has no way of understanding his intentions.

Even though Chau wrote in his journal, “I hollered, ‘My name is John, I love you, and Jesus loves you,'” the Sentinelese cannot decipher a message of love from one that is threatening.

To the Sentinelese, Chau represented a person attempting in infiltrate and steal their resources. Of course, they would defend their land by killing off the threat Chau imposed on them.

The Sentinelese acted precisely how they have for hundreds of years. They protected their land, their culture, and their existence by killing Chau.

Perhaps our biggest concern in this story should not be to remember Chau’s legacy, but rather, we should be most concerned if Chau infected the tribe with deadly pathogens.

If Chau’s contact infects and kills the Sentinelese, he is not a martyr for Christianity.

No, Chau’s legacy will be that of a man that enabled the genocide of a tribe. A genocide started by Chau because he wanted to rid a fictitious “satan” from an island.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • nmgirl

    I have no sympathy for Chau. He’s not even worth tots and pears.

  • Knitting Cat Lady

    There’s easier way to commit suicide. Most of those have the advantage that you don’t take an entire culture with you.

    And I’m pretty annoyed at the people who call this murder.

    It wasn’t. It was self defence. They shot an intruder in their home.

  • TsuDhoNimh

    He seems to have been just another “extreme adventure” blogger, mote than a real missionary. And, unfortunately, a bunch more of them are gearing up to to go see where he died.

  • d’Monique

    He wanted to get rid of Satan.

    Instead he brought Satan with him. :/

  • BlueDeer

    “Chau’s mission to spread the word of Jesus was selfish and self-serving.”
    This. 100%. Selfish and self-serving.

  • tjallen54

    Such arrogance! That his special message made it okay to break the law and endanger the lives of the islanders.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    What I find interesting is that they did everything they could to limit exposure to him. Reports say that they tossed a rope around his dead body and dragged it to a pit they had dug and then buried his corpse. That is NOT the behavior of ignorant ‘savages’ but seems to imply that they are aware of the danger of foreign disease.

    And yet there is international demand that this idiots body be recovered which would only ADD to the chance of contagion. FFS, where is the ‘prime directive’ when you really need it?

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Yeah, the same trumpinazis that are just panting in anticipation for our troops to start shooting the evil CARAVANS are now screaming ‘Those savages MURDERED an INNOCENT jesus child!’

  • Daffodil

    I don’t think he was trying to rid the island of Satan so much as hasten the second coming. The message is that until all peoples have heard the “good” news, Christ can not return. It sounds like he thought this might be the last place that had not heard the news. If true, he would have been a hero of sorts to Christians everywhere. Delusions of grandeur is what he had, in my opinion.

  • tjallen54

    Note his friends and parents forgiving the islanders, and saying his accomplices should be released. Why? He paid them to commit crimes and they committed them. I bet an investigation would uncover other religious backers, here in the US, who also need to be charged for funding his crimes.

  • exactly! it’s murder only when it suits their cause

  • this gives me a lot of hope!

  • And if he believed that he was probably wrong. There are still a few tribes in South America that have had no real contact with the rest of the world, and certainly have no idea people worship some guy named Jesus.

  • Jim Jones

    If they try to recover the body, they’d better bring a lot of bleach.

  • Jim Baerg

    Having read “A Darkening Age, The Christian Destruction of the Classical World” I am more convinced than ever that the world would have been better off without Christianity. An additional benefit is that without Christianity there would have been no Islam either.

  • Jim Jones

    Then we would have had Glycon.

    http://pocm.info/

  • Occam

    I was impressed by that as well. The fact they used a rope to minimize skin-to-skin contact with the deceased demonstrates their understanding and fear of foreign pathogens, and the mortal threat they pose. This was self-defence and nothing less.

  • Lark62

    I would love to see US backers charged, and the friend in India. But I feel sorry for the dirt poor fishermen bribed to take part. I expect India will use them to “make an example” while those with money walk into the sunset feeling righteous.

  • Steven Watson

    There have been taboos against corpse handling since time immemorial; it doesn’t mean any understanding of pathogens, foreign or domestic. Extinction is their lot; the population is well below sustainable, and incest and ignorance will see them off within a couple of generations.

  • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

    “Lord, is this island Satan’s last stronghold where none have heard or even had the chance to hear your name?”

    How is it Satan’s fault that God only revealed himself to a few people in the backwaters of Rome?

  • Anne Fenwick

    It’s really difficult to know what they might be thinking or why they’re acting as they do. Clearly, at this point, they’re under no illusions that they’re alone on the planet (if they ever were) and that’s about all we can say about them. If they really understand the risk of foreign disease, either they’ve had more explicitly communicative contact with the rest of the world than we’re told, or they’re so much smarter than the entire rest of the world’s population that I might have to start believing in divine inspiration. If not understanding the nature of disease makes you an ‘ignorant savage’ that would include all of everybody else’s ancestors right up to very recently.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Kinda OT, I watched a youtube bount ANTS.
    Sec, ill grab the link..

    Found it
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdPsVpD6b08

    The amazing thing IMO is NOT the ants. The AMAZING thing is the technology they used to create the show. Go to the end and learn about ‘FRANK’

  • tjallen54

    The Sentinelese have lived in relative isolation for an estimated 50,000 years. You can calculate how many generations they have already survived, in extreme isolation, with almost no genetic input and almost no information from the outside world. Extinction? Incest? Unsustainability? Ignorance?

  • persephone

    I watched The Pilgrims on PBS American Experience yesterday. When they landed, they found a graveyard. Well, not even a graveyard, as many of the bodies had never been buried. Diseases spread by previous European visitors had caused the deaths of 50%-90% of the indigenous population. Plymouth Plantation was built right on top of a village that had been wiped out.

    This is why we know so little about the huge cities and vast tribes that existed before 1492. Survivors had to concentrate on surviving, and so much knowledge was lost as a result. How do you retain the knowledge of hundreds/thousands of years if the only survivors are teenagers or young adults, and they’re less than 10% of the previous population? In some areas, it’s believed the death rate was as high as 98%-99%.

  • Occam

    Very little is known about the Sentinelese including how they treat their dead so it’s possible their may be taboos about close contact with the dead. The rest of your comments are idiotic. Inbreeding causes sterility, yet there are pregnant woman and children of all ages present on the island. And the adults have been observed to be very healthy. And I can guarantee they haven’t forgotten what happened to the tribes on the neighbouring islands after contact with white people. They may be primitive but you are the ignorant one.

  • Survival International says that the assumption they have not evolved or live in the “stone ages” is incorrect. They say the group has evolved, learned, and use different methods for hunting. They now use metal tips for their spears vs a sharply pointed wood tip. Survival International stated that they would not have lasted this long if they didn’t evolve and learn. The Sentinelese have also had members removed from the island in the 1800s. This study ended up with 2 members dying and 2 children returning. The 2 children that returned spread illness to the tribe.

  • Jim Baerg

    I think the intolerance against other religions makes monotheistic religions more harmful than polytheistic religions. (The caste system in Hinduism shows that polytheism can be very pernicious too.) Nothing in the Wikipedia article on Glycon suggests that the devotees of Glycon would have persecuted devotees of other gods, so probably less harmful than Christianity.

  • Let’s just hope that this doesn’t result in the genocide of the Sentinelese people.

  • doninkansas

    As far as I’m concerned the tribe was just putting into action their own form of Castle Doctrine and Stand Their Ground, with greater right than most folks in Florida are doing it.

  • V.

    They clearly were in very intermittent contact with other Andamanese before the British arrived—even though the Onge couldn’t understand Sentinelese they recognized that they shared some words in common, and Onge have a name for North Sentinel; it’s safe to assume all the people of the Andamans have a common origin. Given what happened to them and how the other Andamanese dropped off their map and were replaced by strange dangerous intruders they must have some vague awareness of how much of a threat outsiders are.

    The Indian government inferred a minimum of 39 people on their last flyby—but they note it’s hard to count people in dense cover and that the population could be as much as 400. While a population of 39 probably will die out, a population of 400 is a different story. (And even if they are doomed to die out, might it be better to allow them to do so slowly rather than through all the horrid diseases they aren’t immune to? Especially considering how much the populations of other Andamanese were destroyed, again and again through British rule and the last century.)

  • V.

    Unfortunately, I think they need to receive penalties, because the main threat to the Sentinelese is fishermen breaching the exclusion zone.

  • blondein_tokyo

    The fishermen aren’t dirt poor by the standards of India. If they own a boat, have steady work, and can employ others, they’re well off.

    And in India, taking bribes is a matter of course. It’s how they smooth relationships, do business, and run society. The fisherman had no qualms taking his money and breaking the law, which they were very well aware would carry risk. They definitely carry some of the blame.

  • Eddy Hazen LeBlanc

    If it is Nature’s will, then so be it.

  • Raging Bee

    How blatant a racist do you have to be, to think a “primitive” tribe can’t understand the simple concept of communicable disease?

    Here’s another question I asked you elsewhere and you ran away from: what better way do you have to offer this tribe? Or do just enjoy writing them off and pretending you’re better then them and they deserve “their lot?”

  • Lark62

    People keep saying “Chau knew the risks.”

    Chau acknowledged the risks to himself.

    The risk outsiders pose to the tribe is readily available, and prominent in any discussion of why the island is off limits. Yet Chau clearly did not give a flying fuck of the risk he posed to the tribe.

    His arrogance, selfishness and utter contempt for their lives is astounding.

  • phatkhat

    Same people probably love gunz and stand-your-ground.

  • MystiqueLady

    Makes me wonder if this tribe is so secluded — They’ve seen what missionaries do and want none of it. Maybe they live wonderful Utopian lives underground, only surfacing in costume to keep the outside world away. 😉

  • MystiqueLady

    Yup White English speaking Christian Privilege at its finest.

  • Raging Bee

    Have you read The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson? It’s an alternative-history-fiction novel that begins with two of Tamarlane’s scouts reporting that the ENTIRE Christian world had been wiped out by the Black Plague (as opposed to about one-third); and goes on from there to describe a world shaped by four other civilizations: the Muslim world, India, China/Japan, and the Hodensaunee in NE North America. Pretty interesting, IMHO. Basically it follows about 4-5 characters who keep getting reincarnated from Tamarlane’s time up to the “present.” To make it easier to follow, each character has a letter, which is the first letter of every name he/she has in all his/her lives.

  • Raging Bee

    White people underestimated primitive savages?! HAHAHAHAHAHA, silly girl, that never happens in real life! Where do you get such outlandish notions? /s

  • Jim Baerg

    I never read that one. I wouldn’t expect a Muslim dominated world to be better than a Christian dominated world. If for no other reason than that Christianity did go through the Enlightenment which weakened all the worst aspects of it.

  • Raging Bee

    IIRC, it does kinda idealize the whole idea of a world without Christianity (or, more accurately, a world without European civilization and imperialism/colonialism, for better or worse). It doesn’t say everything is wunnerful the whole time, and there are some pretty horrific conflicts at times. On the whole the Hodensaunee seem to come off as the (relatively) goodish guys. It does sort of postulate that without Europe leaping ahead in science, technology and political/economic domination, the other four civilizations would have dealt with each other on a more equal basis.

  • Lindsay

    In the 15th and early 16th century, after Europeans started coming to the Americas, over 90% of the indigenous people of this hemisphere died of flu, small pox, and other diseases which the Europeans carried. The entire, rather extensive civilization which flourished up and down the Amazon disappeared. Nations of the Americas were, quite literally, decimated.

    Europeans, for better or worse, had lived for centuries in close proximity to their livestock. From swine and fowl they caught, and became imune to influenza. From cattle they were exposed to smallpox, and the list goes on. The people who lived in the Americas didn’t keep livestock. They had no immunities. The result was inevitable.

  • Chau knew how, with what, and where (especially in the Internet world) was he going and got what anyone with half a brain would expect. If the tribe disappears due to illnesses brought from the outside, we know who to held responsible. Pity it’s very likely they’d not be judged for crimes against humanity.

  • Raging Bee

    The Christianese word for his behavior is “humble.” I kid you not.

  • Not to mention aliens if they existed at all. The RCC claims some of them could even be free of original sin, which is a leap beyond Fundagelicals’ claim of them not existing because they’re not mentioned in “the book”.

  • Lark62

    Unfortunately, I think you’re right.

  • Pitchguest

    So does this mean that you support the removal of foreign invaders or not?

  • Pitchguest

    Yes. The illusive White Asian, John Chau. Shrödinger’s PoC strikes again.

  • Katherine A.

    Since Chau’s body is still on the island can his pathogens still infect the tribe? I know (from the rest of the internet and you mentioned too) about the danger that Chau posed by bringing pathogens that the natives would have no immunity to. But does a dead body pose the same risk to the tribe?

  • Jacques Lebeau

    Let them wallow in their ignorance until they become extinct. Few will mourn or even know of their passing.

  • Phillip Murray

    Chau was Darwinized. Good riddance to the idiot. I hope he didn’t murder any of the tribe members by leaving behind a legacy of pathogens.

  • V.

    Most of the people of the still uncontacted or little-contacted groups of the Amazon are probably descended from the inhabitants of the densely settled civilization that existed there before… they’re the survivors of diseases brought from across the Atlantic, and they may have had contact with other indigenous people and hence diseases before this century. So the isolation of the Sentinelese really is unique.

    (And oh yeah South Americans did have livestock… lamas, peccaries, guinea pigs, in other words very distant relatives of European livestock, and yeah they didn’t all live in the same room as their pigs.)

  • Ants In My Eyes Johnson

    Noticing that contact with outsiders precedes oubreaks of severe illness is not an example of spectacularly unusual intelligence, you know.

  • Ants In My Eyes Johnson

    They aren’t refusing contact because of ignorance, either. The Sentinelese are extremely aware of what they’re trying to keep out — so-called “uncontacted” tribes always are. They have learned enough of what the outsiders have to offer to know that they want none of it.

  • Adrian

    The rules for the Darwin Awards state that if you get someone else killed in your attempt to get an Award, you’re automatically disqualified.

  • Adrian

    Suicide by sheer criminal dumbassery, and motivate by #1 of the Seven Deadly No-noes? Chau better hope that his God doesn’t exist, because if He does, it’s off to Hell with his arse! (There is also the “small” matter of the potential genocide, but according to the Babble that isn’t a big concern for ol’ YHWH)

    If they ever retrieve Chau’s sorry carcass, I vote that they bury it at the bottom of a septic tank….

  • Phillip Murray

    Well, then, let’s hope he is still qualified.

  • Adrian

    Yeah, for the sake of the Sentineleses, let’s hope….

  • Blanche Quizno

    Typical narcissistic Christian, only concerned with himself. That tribe did the world a favor.

  • Blanche Quizno

    Oh, well, then let’s just storm the island, then, and arrest them all for killing a “good” Christian, since we all know a “good” Christian is worth way more that an entire tribe of subhuman primitive animals like those nonChristians. Kill them all – “gahd” will know its own. Why change what already works in your favor??

  • Blanche Quizno

    They stood their ground!

  • Blanche Quizno

    Definition of Christianity

  • Blanche Quizno

    Except that it was the Muslim world that ignited the Islamic Renaissance, which blazed with innovation, creativity, and discovery for hundreds of years before news of its progress, brought home to squalid, filthy, ignorant Christian Europe by crusaders, sparked a similar Renaissance there. The Muslims were first.

  • Blanche Quizno

    It’s New Wakanda.

  • Blanche Quizno

    A REAL God could have had as many “begotten” sons – and daughters! – as it wanted, and then could have sent at least one into every population on earth. Wouldn’t *that* have been a much more *sensible* strategy if it indeed took its own supposed goals and objectives seriously?

    That “only begotten son” bushwah only makes sense within the framework of an earthly monarch who needs a son for dynastic purposes. Look what lengths King Henry VIII went to in his quest for a male heir, and he couldn’t even get one after all that! If the Christians’ “god” is every bit as limited as an earthly king, why should we concern ourselves with it and its petty little grasping ego and narcissism? In case Christians haven’t noticed, we outgrew monarchies centuries ago – the only functional monarchies left are in Muslim shithole countries, and nobody thinks of THEM as anything to aspire to, do they?

  • Blanche Quizno

    Can they surround that island with an electric fence armed with a lethal level of current? That would solve the problem without bothering that nice tribe that only wants to be let alone.

  • Blanche Quizno

    They buried him without touching him, I believe. If so, the risks of contamination have been minimized, but now MORE Christian dumbasses are trying to insist that people go in there and bring back his corpse. No. He already got WAY better than he deserved.

  • Blanche Quizno

    You realize John Chau was just one individual, right? Or are you referring to all the Christian dumbasses he represented?

  • Jim Baerg

    True the Muslim part of the world preserved & built upon the knowledge the Greeks developed (in turn built upon knowledge from the Mesopotamian & Egyptian cultures) while Europe stagnated. However, then the Muslims went into their own Dark Age while the Europeans picked up the knowledge preserved by the Muslim world.
    I have seen the claim that much of the intellectual vibrancy of the Caliphates was because there were lots of different religions practiced there & when Muslims became the overwhelming majority, the lack of intellectual variety helped kill science there. The growth of science in Europe after the Reformation resulted in multiple competing Christian sects, does fit with this idea.

  • Lisa Cybergirl

    Even if the islanders had greeted him with open arms and bouquets of flowers, and he had spoken of his gospel all day and night, his project would still have been a failure. He didn’t speak their language (and neither does anyone else). It couldn’t have been anything but a futile waste of time.

  • Gary Whittenberger

    “While many express their outrage by Chau’s death, the real victims in the tragedy are the Sentinelese people.”

    No, the real victims were Mr. Chau, his family and friends, and the rest of humanity noting murderers going unpunished!

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    You’re referring to xtians and Chau in particular, I gather?

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    From what I’ve heard, in Texas, that’s UMbull….

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    Dunno…I spend most of my day flouting Nature’s will, to my own benefit…

    😉

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower
  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    I’d say the Indians/Persians/Arabs were there first.

    Islam came along later, and fundy Islam is what killed civilization in that part of the world.

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    They’ve been around for at least 140 years that we know of…

    What makes you so sure YOU know their society’s fate?

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    Nope.

    Just looking for a little consistency, here.

    The migrants entering the US have a better chance of being BETTER vaccinated that US citizens, due to loudmouthed idiots.

  • Steven Watson

    Were you aslleep in that lesson? Henry the Eighth was succeeded by his son Edward the Sixth, that he took ill and died age 15 after a reign of six years, four months, and eight days is not something that could have been forseen. Though a minority, his reign was of great political and religious significance and he was a major contributor to that.

  • Steven Watson

    Though it will be an entirely avoidable tragedy; I’ll know and mourn, most people on these channels will know and mourn.