An American was killed with multiple arrows as he attempted to make contact with an isolated tribe on an island near India that has had little contact with the outside world.
Police have identified the man as John Allen Chau, a 27-year-old Christian missionary who had wanted to visit the island to preach Christianity to the indigenous Andaman tribe.
The Andaman tribe lives on India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands. Chau had arranged for fishermen to take him to North Sentinel Island, which is in the Bay of Bengal between India and Myanmar and Thailand.
Chau paid fishermen to ferry him to the island. But when Chau arrived on the island, the tribespeople shot him with arrows as he continued walking. Later, the fishermen spotted the tribespeople tying a rope around his neck and dragging his body. Upon seeing this, the fishermen fled.
Chau’s body was left on the beach and has yet to be recovered.
The Andaman tribe is described as one of the most dangerous in the world. The tribe is considered by scientists as one of the first groups of people to successively migrate out of Africa. The tribe is estimated to have migrated to the Andaman islands about 60,000 years ago.
When a Navy helicopter passed over the island, such as occurred during a “welfare check” following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, members of the tribe began firing arrows at the chopper.
The tribe is estimated to number only between 50 and 150. In the previous times of British colonial occupation of the Andaman Islands, their population was decimated as thousands of tribespeople were wiped out. This is likely the cause of why the tribe remains hostile to outsiders.
Any contact from the outside world with the indigenous Andaman tribe is illegal.
Seven fishermen who helped ferry Chau to the island have been arrested for their participation in the illegal contact with the island, according to local police.
In 2017, the Indian government enacted legislation that made taking photographs or videos of the Andaman tribes punishable by imprisonment of up to three years.
Because the tribe is endangered and protected, they will not be prosecuted in Chau’s murder.
Due to their isolation, they are extremely vulnerable to common illnesses such as flu and measles, since they are unlikely to have any immunity to those conditions and a number of other types of infections.
It’s possible, with Chau’s making contact on the island, that the tribespeople may have already been infected with pathogens to which they have no immunity, leaving the potential to wipe out the entire tribe.