The inhabitants of this island haven’t allowed outsiders on their land for thousands of years

The inhabitants of North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean have been isolated from the outside world for longer than anyone can remember. Anyone who tries to reach the island is met by a flurry of arrows. Their society doesn’t appear to have advanced beyond the Stone Age. They have defended their culture for aeons, but if will no doubt disappear rapidly should they come into contact with modern civilisation.


In the nineteenth century, boats broke against the rocks of the island on several occassions. The crews would try to get onto the beach, but the natives fired arrows at them. Once, in 1897, a group of policemen arrived in search of a fugitive convict. They found him in the forest with his throat cut and his body full of arrows. They fled.


North Sentinel Island is only 72 square kilometres in area. No more than 400 people probably live there. In August 1981, the ship ‘The Primrose’ landed on its chalky shores. The natives reacted aggressively, flinging spears and firing arrows at the intruders. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the crew was evacuated by helicopter.


Scientists have tried to establish peaceful contact with the island-dwellers on several occasions. They brought gifts, smiled profusely and bowed frequently. But the natives either displayed contemptuous indifference or again threatened the outsiders with their spears.


In 1991, one Indian scientist achieved a breakthrough in attracting the islanders’ attention. They were apparently intrigued by…some red plastic buckets. Over several years they gathered up all the buckets that were left on the shore, but still refused to interact and never approached the scientists. Having heard some of their cries and shouts, anthropologists ascertained that the Sentinelese use a language which bears no resemblance to that of others found in the Andaman Islands. They came to the conclusion in turn that these people must have lived in isolation from even their neighbouring island dwellers for thousands of years.


Officially, the island is part of India, but the Indian government has stated that it has no intention of interfering in the life of the Sentinelese – they can live as they want. The government now even guards against tourists landing on the island. There are logical reasons for this – firstly, it’s dangerous for all concerned (in 2006, the islanders killed two unlucky fishermen who landed there due to bad weather), and secondly the natives have no immunity to outside diseases, meaning that even something as simple as an ordinary cold could kill them.

Christian Caron

Although these aboriginal people have absolutely no interest in the outside world, they never cease to fascinate us. What’s it like living in their tiny little universe, and what do they think about the outside world? There is even a Facebook page dedicated to them along with a number of websites – the existence of which, of course, they can never even conceive.


On North Sentinel Island, it seems as if time itself as frozen in a mould from the very distant past. It is incredible to think that there are people out there, in the 21st century, who know nothing of the internet or the atomic bomb, maintaining a culture from a time when people believed gods inhabited stones and trees. A truly fascinating story.

Based on material from: Rus.livejournal