An America man’s trip to India’s North Sentinel Island, home to an indigenous tribe protected from outside contact by law, resulted in his death at the hands of tribesmen, authorities said Wednesday.
The man, John Allen Chau, 27, took a ride with a local fishermen around India’s Andaman Islands, AFP reports, then set out alone in a canoe to reach the remote North Sentinel Island, home to the Sentinelese, a tribe protected by law from outside contact “in a bid to protect their indigenous way of life and shield them from diseases.”
After several trips to the Andaman Islands, located in the Indian Ocean, Chau finally made it to the isolated island. According to AFP’s law enforcement sources, things immediately became dangerous.
“As soon as he set foot on the island, Chau found himself facing a flurry of arrows,” AFP reports. “Police have registered a case of murder and seven accused persons have been arrested.” BBC reports that “seven fishermen have been arrested for illegally ferrying the American to the island.”
In a press release Wednesday, senior police officer Deepak Yaday said the investigation is still ongoing, but AFP’s law enforcement sources provided details about the tragic sequence of events.
“[Chau] tried to reach the Sentinel island on November 14 but could not make it. Two days later he went well prepared. He left the dingy midway and took a canoe all by himself to the island,” one of AFP’s sources said.
“He was attacked by arrows but he continued walking. The fishermen saw the tribals tying a rope around his neck and dragging his body,” the source said. “They were scared and fled but returned next morning to find his body on the sea shore.”
The Sentinelese, who number between 50 to 150, are known to be hostile to outsiders, shunning contact with the outside world. AFP notes that the Andamans are also home to the Jarawa tribe, who number around 400, and “who activists say are at threat from outsiders, who often bribe local authorities to spend a day out with them.”
Though multiple reports describe Chau as an “adventure tourist,” BBC reports that local media has described him as a missionary. “Local media have reported that he wanted to meet the tribe to preach Christianity to them,” BBC reports.
“Police said Chau had previously visited North Sentinel island about four or five times with the help of local fishermen,” local journalist Subir Bhaumik told BBC Hindi. “The number of people belonging to the Sentinelese tribe is so low, they don’t even understand how to use money. It’s in fact illegal to have any sort of contact with them.”
BBC notes that the Indian government has outlawed even taking photographs or video footage of the protected tribes.
Chau is not the first outsider killed by the Sentinelese, BBC reports. In 2006, two Indian fisherman were also killed by the group while fishing off the island.