What He Thought Would Keep Him Alive: a Football, Fish, and God

More on the final hours of John Allen Chau, killed by hostile Sentinelese
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 23, 2018 7:16 AM CST
What He Thought Would Keep Him Alive: a Football, Fish, and God
In this October 2018 photo, John Allen Chau, right, stands for a photograph with Casey Prince, the founder of Ubuntu Football Academy, in Cape Town, South Africa, days before he left for the remote North Sentinel Island, where he was killed.   (AP Photo/Sarah Prince)

(Newser) – The young American, paddling his kayak toward a remote Indian island whose people have resisted the outside world for thousands of years, believed God was helping him dodge the authorities. "God sheltered me and camouflaged me against the coast guard and the navy," John Allen Chau wrote before he was killed last week on North Sentinel Island, per the AP. Indian ships monitor the waters around the island, trying to ensure outsiders don't go near the Sentinelese, who've repeatedly made clear they want to be left alone. Police say Chau knew the Sentinelese resisted all contact by outsiders, firing arrows and spears at passing helicopters and killing fishermen who drift onto their shore. Chau's notes, which were reported Thursday in Indian newspapers and confirmed by police, make clear he knew he might be killed.

"I DON'T WANT TO DIE," wrote Chau, whose friends described him as a fervent Christian. "Would it be wiser to leave and let someone else to continue. No I don't think so." Even officials don't travel to North Sentinel. The only contacts, occasional "gift-giving" visits in which bananas and coconuts were passed by small teams of officials and scholars in the surf, were years ago. Chau paid fishermen $325 to take him near North Sentinel last week, using the kayak to paddle to shore and bringing gifts, including a football and fish. Chau estimated there were about 250 inhabitants, with at least 10 people living in each hut. "The tribe's language has a lot of high-pitched sounds like 'ba,' 'pa la,' and 'as,'" he wrote. Indian authorities have been trying to figure out a way to recover Chau's body, which is apparently buried on the island's beach. (He yelled, "Jesus loves you!" before he was killed.)

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