The Forgotten Tribe

You would think that with the rapid industrialisation of our world in the past 100 years that there would be nowhere left to hide. Well, the Stone Age civilization of the Sentinelese people have managed to say bugger off to cheeseburgers and smartphones and permanently isolate themselves from the rest of the world. The Sentinelese haven’t had a single pork scratching of contact with other humans, and the few bump-ins they have had, have all ended up with the intruders becoming pork scratchings. There are estimated to be around 100 so-called “uncontacted” tribes left in the world, people who have had little-to-no outside contact. One such tribe lives on the remote North Sentinel island in the Bay of Bengal, between India and Malaysia. There are estimated to be anywhere between 50-500 members of the tribe, and that incredibly varied number is just a sentiment to how little we’ve been able to find out about them. But what we do know about these genital-waggling tribespeople, after observing them from boats and helicopters, is that they are incomprehensibly primitive. They use stone-age tools, and live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and have no understanding of agriculture and amazingly, they haven’t even discovered how to make fire. They simply wait for lightning to strike and they then attempt to keep the embers burning for as long as possible, seriously. I imagine it’s really annoying when you planned to cook a Sunday roast but you can’t because there hasn’t been any lightning that week. It’s thought that the Sentinelese people are directly descended from the very first human populations to emerge from Africa and to this day their methods of hunting and living have remained fairly unchanged, for over 60,000 years. They have remained uncontacted for now, but not for our lack of trying. There have been numerous documented attempts to make contact with the tribe and all of them have ended with the visitors being shooed away with a hail of arrows or they have been captured by the tribespeople and brutally murdered. Two fishermen were illegally fishing in the waters surrounding North Sentinel island. The men got so drunk that they were unable to sail back to the mainland and instead fell asleep aboard their boat, which during the night drifted onto the shore of North Sentinel island. The tribe ran out of the jungle and attacked the two men with arrows and spears, leaving them for dead. A few days later the Indian coastguard sent a helicopter to recover the men’s bodies from the island, which were viewable from the air, but as the helicopter neared the island it was met with a rain of arrows from the ground, so the helicopter ran away with its tail between its legs. They don’t even contact other local tribes, most tribes in the area share a similar language but the Sentilenese have their own, very unique language that no-one else can interpret. But you can’t really blame them for their hostility towards outsiders, their only previous contact with other humans ended up with two of their fellow tribespeople dying. During the British Empire, those well-dressed tea enthusiasts, oh wait that’s me, thought the entire world was theirs for the taking, and they would go to extreme lengths to do so. They had a system for entrapping isolated tribes and taking their land. First they would kidnap a few tribe members and take them back to the British camp, where they would treat them like royalty and shower them with gifts then return them to their people. In the hope that the rest of the tribe would go “oh okay, these British guys aren’t too bad”, enabling the British to sweep in and take their land without hostility. The plucky Brits were pros at this and they succeeded time and time again, until they tried it with the Sentilenese people. The British sailed to North Sentinel island, which is believed to be the first outsider contact with the island and they kidnapped two elderly tribespeople and four young children, they took them back to the nearby British settlement at Port Blair and began their friendly indoctrination of the captured tribespeople. A few days later the two elderly members got sick and died, so the British thought “we’re probably not going to do too well at winning over the trust of the rest of the Sentinelese people after we just killed their granny and grandpops”. So they let the children go and simply left the island alone. It wasn’t understood why the two elderly tribespeople died at the time but we now know from encounters with other tribes, that the years of isolation has left their immune systems several thousand years behind the developed world, so diseases which modern medicine has long since conquered such as influenza and smallpox can easily devastate an entire uncontacted tribe after just a single encounter with an outsider. The Indian government has since realised that the Sentinelese are rather annoyed at our incessant attempts to be their friends and have recently passed a law which banned all contact with the tribe, thinking they are best left alone. A jail sentence awaits anyone who attempts to travel to the island. The last we saw of the tribe was when the Indian Ocean tsunami hit the area in 2004, killing more than 230,000 people in 24 countries. The Indian Navy flew a helicopter over North Sentinel island just to make sure they had survived the deadly tsunami, fearing the entire tribe could have been killed. But as they neared the island the helicopter was once again hit with arrows, indicating that the Sentinelese people were alive and well and thankfully up to their same old violent tricks.

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