Indian media reports said the American was on an adventure trip to the island and his body was found by the fishermen.The Sentinelese people live on their own small forested island and are known to resist all contact with outsiders, often attacking anyone who comes near.
An American tourist was killed by arrows shot by protected tribesmen living in one of the world’s most isolated regions tucked in India’s Andaman islands, police said on Wednesday.
John Chau, 27, had taken a boat ride with local fishermen before venturing alone in a canoe to the remote North Sentinel Island where the indigenous people live cut off completely from the outside world.
As soon as he set foot on the island, Chau found himself facing a flurry of arrows, official sources said.
Two police officials identified the victim to Reuters as John Allen Chau, 27. They added that he was illegally ferried by fishermen to North Sentinel Island last week, part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a group of islands in the Bay of Bengal between India and Burma.
“Adventure awaits. So do leeches,” read the final post on his Instagram account, dated Nov. 2. On his Facebook profile, Chau described himself as a “soccer coach, traveller, and writer.” He often posted images of his worldwide exploits online, such as hikes in Washington state and prior trips to India.
Visitation to North Sentinel Island is heavily restricted by the Indian government and contact with the Sentinelese tribe who lives there is illegal to protect their indigenous way of life and prevent the spread of diseases.
The tribe is amongst the first people to successfully migrate out of Africa and scientists believe they arrived in the region some 60,000 years ago, the BBC reports.
A police source told Reuters that Chau is a preacher who had visited the area in the past and had a strong desire to meet the tribe. The source also claimed Chau expressed interest in preaching to them.
Sources who spoke to AFP said Chau last Wednesday took a boat ride to the island before switching to a canoe to go ashore alone. Once he set foot there, he reportedly was “attacked by arrows but he continued walking.
“He 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,” 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. They were scared and fled but returned next morning to find his body on the sea shore.”
“The fishermen saw the tribals tying a rope around his neck and dragging his body,” one source added.
Chau’s body, according to Reuters, has not yet been recovered as of Wednesday, and those who took him to the island are said to have been arrested.
The Andamans are also home to the 400-strong Jarawa tribe who activists say are at threat from outsiders, who often bribe local authorities to spend a day out with them. But tribes such as the Sentinelese shun all contact with the outside world and are known to be hostile to any encroachers.
“The investigation in this matter is on,” senior police officer Deepak Yadav said, announcing that seven people have been taken into custody.
It is not the first time someone has been attacked while trying to visit the island.
In 2006, two fishermen whose boat strayed into the waters around the island were killed – and their bodies have never been found, Reuters reports.
An Indian Coast Guard helicopter that had tried to land in the area to find the pair was forced to turn around after coming under fire by arrows, the news agency says.
Two years earlier, an Indian Navy helicopter that flew to the island to check up on its residents in the wake of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami also was met with a greeting of arrows.
“So we knew that they were safe,” one of the pilots told the BBC.
The U.S. Consulate in Chennai, in the capital of Tamil Nadu state, said it was aware of reports of Chau’s death but declined to comment further.
Shiv Viswanathan, a social scientist at the Jindal Global Law School, said the island is a protected area and not open to tourists.
“The exact population of the tribe is not known, but it is declining,” Viswanathan said. “The government has to protect them.”
Survival International, an organization that works for the rights of tribal people, said the most recent killing should prompt Indian authorities to continue to protect the lands of the Sentinelese and other Andaman tribes.
“The British colonial occupation of the Andaman Islands decimated the tribes living there, wiping out thousands of tribespeople, and only a fraction of the original population now survives. So the Sentinelese fear of outsiders is very understandable,” Stephen Corry, the group’s director, said in a statement.