John Chau claimed he loved the Sentinelese people. He had never met them. His actions could lead to their genocide. His actions led to his death. I, and many others, are extremely annoyed at this vulgar display of religious arrogance.
Redditor, kushoon, posted his anger about the sheer vulgarity of Chau’s parents saying they forgive the Sentinelese. I extend my anger to Chau as well.
The Sentinelese are a small tribe, estimated to be between 50 and 200, which would make for many fascinating studies, but are off-limits. They are considered the most isolated tribe in the world. They live on North Sentinel Island one of India’s Andaman Islands. No one knows their language or exactly how many people live on the island. They are the only pre-neolithic tribe in the world.
They are thought to be directly descended from the first human populations to emerge from Africa, and have probably lived in the Andaman Islands for up to 60,000 years. The fact that their language is so different even from other Andaman islanders suggests that they have had little contact with other people for thousands of years.
Previous attempts at contact have ended in disaster and warnings to stay away.
In 1879, an elderly couple and four children were kidnapped. Their lack of immunity to our many diseases is the likely cause of the couple’s death.
The colonial officer in charge of the kidnapping wrote that the entire group, ‘sickened rapidly, and the old man and his wife died, so the four children were sent back to their home with quantities of presents.’ Despite being responsible for the deaths of at least two people, and quite possibly starting an epidemic amongst the islanders, the same officer expressed no remorse, but merely remarked on the Sentinelese’s ‘peculiarly idiotic expression of countenance, and manner of behaving.’
From 1967-1991, anthropologist T.N. Pandit left gifts on the beach in hope of friendly contact. None of the gifts were accepted. Today, Pandit has regrets.
In 1974, a National Geographic film crew went to the island with a team of anthropologists. Armed police escorted them. The group and the Sentinelese got into a skirmish, which included the director receiving an arrow in his thigh.
In the mid-1990s, the Indian government sent several contact expeditions to the island through a state welfare agency designed to look after the Sentinelese’s well-being. No one was successful in getting close enough to the tribe to learn anything. After a series of hostile incidents resulted in several deaths in a similar program with the Jarawa people of the South and Middle Andaman Islands, the Indian government ceased contact in 1996. The Indian government also cited the risk of introducing disease and killing the tribe as another reason.
A five nautical mile exclusion zone was put into place. The Sentinelese were to be left alone. It was agreed the tribe should be the ones to determine their fate.
After the 2004 tsunami, a helicopter flew over the island and was greeted by a man aiming a bow an arrow toward it.
In 2006, Sunder Raj, 48, and Pandit Tiwari, 52, and several other men were illegally fishing for mud crabs near North Sentinel Island. After dropping anchor for the night, the other men noticed Raj and Tiwari’s boat was drifting near the island. The fishermen shouted the pair were in danger. The boat continued toward the island. In the shallows, they were attacked and killed.
After the fishermen’s families raised the alarm, the Indian coastguard tried to recover the bodies using a helicopter but was met by the customary hail of arrows.
Photographs shot from the helicopter show the near-naked tribesmen rushing to fire. But the downdraught from its rotors exposed the two fisherman buried in shallow graves and not roasted and eaten, as local rumour suggested.
If Chau had done a basic google search, and spent ten minutes reading, he would have learned this information. Instead, he decided that he knew better. He decided his god was more important than the safety of anyone else.
Chau also assumed he could waltz onto the island and succeed where no one else could. He didn’t know the language. When the Sentinelese shouted at him, he shouted back what he thought he heard. Chau wrote in his journal they laughed at him. He tried shouting and singing in English. Another stupid move.
Chau said he knew a few words of Khosa, an African language. His own illogical conclusions are based on the theory that the Sentinelese came from region of Africa and would understand him. Chau did not understand the basic concept of time, distance, or dialect.
Chau is an American, yet somehow never learned of the devastation of disease that the white man hurled onto the American Indians. He apparently never once thought that, even if he himself was healthy, he could spread an epidemic to a people, potentially destroying them.
His smug attitude wouldn’t allow him to live on a planet where everyone else is living exactly as he does. He utter ignorance said he knew better. His beliefs were superior and these people needed to be rescued from a live he didn’t approve of. He wanted to make the Sentinelese like him. He was satisfied with committing cultural and literal genocide to bring these people to thinking like him.
The mindset that if you are a Christian you can do whatever you want needs to stop. The media needs to stop portraying Chau as a gentle man who loved his god. Love your god all you want, but stop trying to force it on other people.
To Chau’s family who forgive the Sentinelese I say fuck you and your self-righteousness. These people do not need to be forgiven for defending their home. You, however, need forgiveness from the Sentinelese for raising a son with harmful beliefs that contributed to his religious zeal. Your irresponsible son broke international law because he thought so much of himself he believed he would get through to them. Your son could have caused a genocide of people because he was delusional to think he would cause no harm.
What do you mean you forgive the tribe..
The Sentinelese did not want you to introduce your imaginary god to them.
The Sentinelese did not want you to come and save them, they were doing just fine without you.
The Sentinelese warned you to not come, firing arrows and making it abundantly clear they don’t want you.
But for some reason your son thought it was his duty to shove his belief on these people who have no interest in outsiders and their ways. Even if it meant wiping them off the face of the planet because your son could be carrying diseases and pathogens the Sentinelese are not immune against.
Still in the face of such glaring stupidity and inconsideration by your son and so many missionary predators before him the family has the gall to say that they forgive the Sentinelese?
Who are you to forgive them, they did not invade your lands neither did they seek to disturb your way of life or accuse you of some imaginary sin.
But even in this moment of tragedy the religious feel compelled to assume the moral high ground.
The Sentinelese do not have any immunity to the diseases the outside world has built up. If your son had bothered to learn about these people before he went out on his “mission” he would have known that.
Does it suck that Chau is dead? Sure. In the grand scheme of things, I’ll take his death over the elimination of an entire people any time.
The Sentinelese did the right thing. Chau invaded their land. They gave him a warning. When he returned, they shot him. Chau was a complete moron for returning a third time.
Chau is not a martyr. He was killed because he was repeatedly warned to go away and refused to heed said warnings. His death was an act of self-defense and self-preservation of the tribe, and entirely justified.
I concur with David Gee. “What better day than Thanksgiving to threaten the lives of indigenous people. This is how genocides start.”
If the Sentinelese die, I will mourn their passing, for it did not have to be. I will never mourn John Chau for his arrogance in thinking he was above the law.