Most Isolated People in the World
North Sentinel Island
Located West of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, in the Bay of Bengal, lies the North Sentinel Island—famous for being inhabited by the most isolated people in the world. The North Sentinel Island is 28 square miles, heavily forested, and surrounded by coral reefs. Little is known about the Sentinelese tribe who are thought to have lived on the island for 60,000 years. Several attempts to reach out to this territorial group have been made.
The first recorded contact was in January 1880 during an expedition led by Maurice Vidal Portman. They captured six Sentinelese people and brought them back to the main port on the South Andaman Island. The health of all six individuals deteriorated rapidly, and the two elder Sentinelese died. The four children were quickly returned to the North Sentinel Island, with gifts.
Other expeditions have not been successful in learning much about the tribe. Most outsiders are greeted with violent rejection.
It is believed that somewhere between 50 and 400 Sentinelese people live on the island. They are hunter-gatherers who speak their own language and have been untouched by modern civilization. Brief encounters have discovered that they are adept at making tools such as spears and arrows. They are also attuned to nature and survived the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake by moving to higher ground.
Knowledge about the Sentinelese tribe is unlikely to become more robust, as the Andaman and Nicobar Administration have made it clear that they will leave the isolated tribe alone. New Delhi has put in place a three-mile exclusion zone around the island. Fear will also keep curious adventurers away. In 2006, two fishermen accidentally drifted near the island when their anchor failed. They were promptly attacked and killed.
It is for the best that this Island and its inhabitants remain isolated. Past interactions with similar isolated tribes have lead to alcoholism, death, and the general decline of a unique and historic culture. It’s good to have a little mystery in the world.