The Sentinelese people, an isolated paleolithic hunter-gather group, are believed to have settled on one of the northern Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal around 60,000 years ago. There has been very limited contact with these people and much of their existence still remains a mystery. The fact that their language differs greatly from any other in the area serves as evidence that this tribe is one of few tribes in the world that has managed to remain untouched by modern civilization. The information that we do have was acquired either from brief and often hostile encounters with the tribe’s members or from aerial observation. Although officially their territory “belongs” to India, they have actively and violently rejected any contact from the outside world. They are, therefore, considered a de facto autonomous group under the protection of India.
It is estimated that the tribe has anywhere from 50 to 500 members. They are described as short-statured “negritos” (or dark-skinned people) with peppercorn hair. Many theorize that they are direct descendants of the first humans from Africa.
The ocean is a very important source of food for these secluded islanders. They utilize a variety of “home-made” spears, harpoons, nets, and dugout canoes to aid them in their quest for dinner. As a whole, the Sentinelese appear to be a healthy and thriving community which is in part due to their good diet (which includes seafood, honey, plants, seeds, and coconuts). Another contributing factor may be their healthy and active sex lives which was documented by Indian Anthropologists during a “contact” expedition in the 19070′s.
The lack of immunity to modern diseases, like the common flu, poses a grave and fatal threat to these people. Moreover, their reluctance to have contact with the outside world has led the Indian government and the International community to let them live their lives with limited interruption. Hopefully, this decision will ensure the survival of this mysterious island tribe!