The Sentinelese are the most isolated tribe in the world, and have captured the imagination of millions. They live on their own small forested island called North Sentinel, which is approximately the size of Manhattan. They continue to resist all contact with outsiders, attacking anyone who comes near. In 2018, the tribe killed John Allen Chau, a Christian missionary who went to the island in an attempt to convert them into Christianity.
The first glimpse of the Sentinelese was evidently in 1867, when Jeremiah Homfray, a keeper of the Andaman Homes, went to their island in pursuit of escaped convicts: ‘We saw some ten men on the beach, naked, long haired, and with bows and arrows, shooting fish.’ They hid on seeing the boat approach. The Great Andamanese on board were frightened of the men and told Homfray that they hailed from Little Andaman and were very fierce. He did not land.
There is much debate about the tribe’s ruthless ways, but there is one thing that may have been misunderstood about these people. The truth is, the natives have actually made contact with the outside world. Unfortunately, their experience has made them wary of outsiders.
Twitter use Respectable Lawyer posted a lengthy thread sharing the truth about the Sentinelese. In the post, it is revealed that the tribe’s first contact with an outsider was through Maurice Vidal Portman. Unfortunately, the encounter with the British naval officer during the 1880s had a devastating effect on the natives.
The natives (not pictured) had a terrifying encounter with Portman in the 1880s.
According to the thread, “Portman was erotically obsessed with the Andamanese, and he indulged his passion for photography by kidnapping members of various tribes and posing them in mock-Greek homoerotic compositions.” By the time he reached the North Sentinel Island, the natives abandoned their homes to escape him. Unfortunately, he “located an elderly couple and a few children they were able to abduct.”
The elderly couple passed away after being captured by Portman. It is believed that they died because of diseases that they had no immunity. This meant that Portman focused his attention on the captive children.
The children were later released back to the tribe. Although they survived, their tales of horror undoubtedly made the Sentinelese wary of outsiders, hence leading to violence towards visitors.
Although they are believed to be uncontacted, their only direct contact with the outside world had made them extremely aggressive. The truth is, the natives may have welcomed visitors if they had only been treated well by Portman.
Despite all efforts to reach the Sentinelese, it has become obvious that these people are better left alone for their own survival. The tweet concludes with the sad truth about their views of the outside world.
“Their aggressiveness is not the mark of savagery. It just that their conception of outsiders is mostly framed by some foot-faced English pervert who murdered some old people and did weird things to their kids. So let’s do them a favor and leave them alone.”
Respectable Lawyer shared a video of the encounter:
Even after all these years, it appears that paranoia and wariness remain the wisest options for these highly threatened people.
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