Meet the sentinelese tribe that does not want civilization

July 3rd, 2024

The Sentinelese, also known as the Sentineli and the North Sentinel Islanders, are an indigenous people who inhabit North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal in India. Designated a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group and a Scheduled Tribe, they belong to the broader class of Andamanese people.

 

Along with the Great Andamanese, the Jarawas, the Onge, the Shompen, and the Nicobarese, the Sentinelese are one of the six native and often reclusive peoples of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Unlike the others, the Sentinelese appear to have consistently refused any interaction with the outside world. They are hostile to outsiders and have killed people who approached or landed on the island.

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In 1956, the Government of India declared North Sentinel Island a tribal reserve and prohibited travel within 3 miles (4.8 km) of it. It further maintains a constant armed patrol to prevent intrusions by outsiders. Photography is prohibited.

 

There is significant uncertainty as to the group’s size, with estimates ranging between 15 and 500 individuals, but mostly between 50 and 200.

 

One report by Heinrich Harrer described a man as 1.6 metres (5 ft 3 in) tall, possibly because of insular dwarfism (the so-called “Island Effect”), nutrition, or simply genetic heritage.

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During a 2014 circumnavigation of their island, researchers put their height between 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m) and 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m) and recorded their skin colour as “dark, shining black” with well-aligned teeth. They showed no signs of obesity and had very prominent muscles.

 

The Sentinelese are hunter-gatherers. They likely use bows and arrows to hunt terrestrial wildlife and more rudimentary methods to catch local seafood, such as mud crabs and molluscan shells. They are believed to eat a lot of molluscs, given the abundance of roasted shells found in their settlements.

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Some of their practices have not evolved beyond those of the Stone Age; they are not known to engage in agriculture. It is unclear whether they have any knowledge of making fire though investigations have shown they use fire.

 

Similarities, as well as dissimilarities, have been spotted with the Onge people. They prepare their food similarly. They share common traits in body decoration and material culture. There are also similarities in the design of their canoes.


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