Asia-Pacific

Killing of US evangelist by Indian tribe a 'wake-up call'

Survival International says the death of John Allen Chau comes less than six months after Indian authorities lifted a key restriction on foreign tourists going to North Sentinel Island, one of the Andaman Islands.

The world's most remote tribes like the Sentinelese in India, responsible for the death of a US adventurer and Christian missionary, face catastrophe unless their land is protected, a human rights group has warned.

John Allen Chau was killed this month when hit by a hail of arrows fired at him by members of the Sentinelese tribe after landing on remote North Sentinel Island, part of the Indian Andaman Islands.

He was reportedly on a mission to preach Christianity to the Sentinelese people and made at least six attempts earlier in November to establish contact with the fiercely protective tribe. 

His death comes less than six months after Indian authorities lifted a key restriction on foreign tourists going to the tribe's island, according to Survival International.

The human rights group, which advocates for the rights of tribal people, says Mr Chau's death is the "tragic consequence" of the Indian government's failure to properly protect the Sentinelese people - one of the world's last tribes untouched by modern civilisation.

"The Sentinelese have shown again and again that they want to be left alone, and their wishes should be respected," director of Survival International  Stephen Corry said.

“This tragedy should never have been allowed to happen. The Indian authorities should have been enforcing the protection of the Sentinelese and their island for the safety of both the tribe, and outsiders."

The Sentinelese stand guard on an island beach.
The Sentinelese stand guard on an island beach.
Survival International

Mr Corry warned it was entirely possible that Mr Chau's presence on the island may have infected members of the tribe with "deadly pathogens to which they have not immunity".

According to Survival International, there are more than 100 uncontacted tribes around the world.

Mr Corry said he hopes this incident will be a "wake-up call" to government authorities to protect these tribes.

John Chau was illegally ferried to the island by fisherman.
John Chau was illegally ferried to the island by fisherman.
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"They’re the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. Whole populations are being wiped out by violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases like the flu and measles to which they have no resistance.

“Tribes like the Sentinelese face catastrophe unless their land is protected. I hope this tragedy acts as a wake up call to the Indian authorities to avert another disaster and properly protect the lands of both the Sentinelese, and the other Andaman tribes, from further invaders.”

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