Set Foot on This Island and You May Not Leave Alive

Isolated tribe on North Sentinel Island isn't a fan of outsiders
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2015 7:52 AM CDT
Updated Jul 25, 2015 11:00 AM CDT
Set Foot on This Island and You May Not Leave Alive
In this Nov. 14, 2005, file photo, clouds hang over North Sentinel Island, in India's southeastern Andaman and Nicobar islands.   (AP Photo/Gautam Singh, File)

Sometimes paradise is better off lost: Off the coast of India in the Bay of Bengal, a Manhattan-size island called North Sentinel Island boasts a deep green canopy of trees, stretches of sandy beaches, coral reef barriers—and a population that's decidedly hostile to outsiders, who aren't likely to live long. As Wackulus explains, the isolated indigenous tribe, one of the last of its kind on Earth, almost always attacks visitors. A little digging uncovered this story: After a night of drinking in 2006, two fishermen drifted too close to the island and were killed by the Sentinelese, who've lived there for 60,000 years. A helicopter sent to recover their bodies was halted by tribesmen's arrows, the Telegraph reported at the time; the air generated by the copter's rotors revealed their bodies in shallow graves. One of the earliest known encounters a century earlier ended when a convict who'd escaped from the neighboring Andaman Islands ended up on the island with his throat slit, the New York Times reported in 2012.

In 1967, the Sentinelese—a Stone Age people but for the metal-tipped arrows carved from wrecked ships—hid from an Indian government expedition, during which a marker was placed on the island, declaring it part of India. Indian anthropologist TN Pandit's visits in the late 1980s and early 1990s proved more exciting. He left gifts of coconuts, knives, cloth, mirrors, and once a live pig. The native hunter-gatherers—believed to number between 50 and 400—killed the pig and buried it in the sand, but only insulted Pandit's group. "They would turn their backs to us and sit on their haunches as if to defecate," he told the Independent. India has since established a 3-mile exclusion zone around the island to protect both outsiders and the natives from disease. Survival International argues it's all for the best as the natives are "extremely healthy, alert, and thriving." They have fire and are believed to dine on fish, fruits, tubers, wild pigs, lizards, and honey. (This video reportedly shows the first contact with an isolated tribe.)

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