John Allen Chau has been identified as the 27-year-old American missionary from Alabama who was killed by the reclusive and endangered Andamans tribe. The fishermen who brought Chau to the extremely isolated North Sentinel Island said that the native tribespeople shot and killed Chau with arrows and left his body on the beach.
According to reports from local media, Chau was reportedly headed to the island to meet the tribe and try to teach them the ways of Christianity.
Furthermore, reports indicate that Chau had previously tried and failed to make contact with the tribe. Chau had also reportedly visited the nearby Andaman and Nicobar islands in the past.
Researchers believe that that the Sentinelese tribe — which is totally cut off from modern civilization — is made up of between 50 and 150 people.
“Police said Chau had previously visited North Sentinel island about four or five times with the help of local fishermen,” journalist Subir Bhaumik, who has been covering the islands for years, told BBC Hindi.
In 2017, the Indian government also said taking photographs or making videos of the aboriginal Andaman tribes would be punishable with imprisonment of up to three years.
The AFP news agency quoted a source as saying that Chau had tried and failed to reach the island on 14 November. But then he tried again two days later.
“He was attacked by arrows but he continued walking. The fishermen saw the tribals tying a rope around his neck and dragging his body. They were scared and fled,” the report added. Chau’s body was spotted on November 20.
At the time of this writing, Chau’s remains have yet to be recovered. Police say that the case is difficult because the law prevents them from event arresting the Sentinelese people.
The New York Times reports that T. N. Pandit, an anthropologist who visited North Sentinel several times between 1967 and 1991, said the Sentinelese people hunt with spears and arrows fashioned from scraps of metal that washes up on shore.
Additionally, Pandit stated that the Sentinelese people “were more hostile to outsiders than other indigenous communities living in the Andamans.”