The Sentinelese (also called the Sentineli or North Sentinel Islanders) are the indigenous people of North Sentinel Island in the Andaman Islands of India. One of the Andamanese peoples, they resist contact with the outside world, and are among the last people to remain virtually untouched and uncontacted by modern civilization.
The Sentinelese maintain an essentially hunter-gatherer society subsisting through hunting, fishing, and collecting wild plants. There is no evidence of either agricultural practices or methods of producing fire. The Sentinelese language remains unclassified and is not mutually intelligible with the Jarawa language of their nearest neighbors.
From the sky it appears to be an idyllic island with amazing beaches and a dense forest, but tourists or fishermen don’t dare to set foot on this outcrop in the Indian Ocean due to its inhabitants’ fearsome reputation.
Visitors who venture onto or too close to North Sentinel Island risk being attacked by members of a mysterious tribe who have rejected modern civilisation and prefer to have zero contact with the outside world.
When they do interact with outsiders, it usually involves violence – the indigenous Sentinelese tribe killed two men who were fishing illegally in 2006 and have been known to fire arrows and fling rocks at low-flying planes or helicopters on reconnaissance missions.
It is too dangerous to approach them due to their hostility to outsiders, meaning they are rarely photographed up close and almost never seen on video. Most of the photos and video clips that do exist are of poor quality.
There are also conflicting reports on the tribe’s population, with most estimates putting it in the range of a few dozen to a few hundred.
Often referred to as a ‘Stone Age tribe’ – a title that advocates take offence to, as its members have adapted over time – the Sentinelese may be the most isolated tribe in the world, with the Indian government choosing not to meddle in their affairs.
The government made several failed attempts to establish contact, but has abandoned all attempts and allows the tribe to live how it chooses on an island that is about the size of Manhattan.
Indian authorities have gone as far as making it a crime to try to make contact with the Sentinelese. It is illegal to go within three miles of the island.