The Sentinelese are one of the world's last "uncontacted" indigenous peoples, a hunter-gatherer tribe who live on the remote North Sentinel Island in India's Andaman Islands chain. You may recall that last November, a missionary named John Allen Chau, 26, obsessed with trying to convert the tribe to Christianity, paid local fishermen to help him get near the island. As soon as he illegally landed his canoe on the shore and started preaching, the Sentinelese fired arrows. He escaped with injuries but returned twice later and was eventually killed. In a long and fascinating GQ feature, Doug Bock Clark tells the whole tale. From GQ:
From his kayak, Chau yelled in English: "My name is John. I love you, and Jesus loves you. Jesus Christ gave me authority to come to you." Then, offering a tuna most likely caught by the ﬁshermen on the journey to the island, Chau declared: "Here is some ﬁsh!" In response, the Sentinelese socketed bamboo arrows onto bark-ﬁber bowstrings. Chau panicked. He ﬂung the gift into the bay. As the tribesmen gathered it, he turned and paddled "like I never have in my life, back to the boat."
By the time he reached safety, though, his fear was already turning to disappointment. He swore to himself that he would return later that day. He had, after all, been planning for this moment since high school. It was his divine calling, he believed, to save the lost souls of North Sentinel Island.
And from GQ's summary of the article:
The tribe had for centuries lived in isolation there free of disease, modern technology, and Western religion, ideals, and systems. Chau's mission was ambitious, and for him, converting these indigenous people from "Satan's last stronghold," would be the ultimate reward—one which he was ready to sacrifice everything for…
Chau was born in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, and raised in a conservative, Christian household. From a young age, he developed a preference for outdoorsy adventures, and after his first mission trip in high school, he became hooked. While attending Oral Roberts University, a devoutly Christian college in Oklahoma, he would attend several mission trips to South Africa, and later Iraq. While a 2010 estimate says that about 127,000 Americans go abroad for mission trips annually, the extent of Chau's fanaticism was outside the norm. One friend from his deeply religious university recalled that Chau's piety made her "question whether or not I was as sold out for Christ as I claimed to be." Chau's father says: "I hoped that he would be matured enough to rectify the fantasy before too late." Bock Clark interviews Chau's family and friends, scoured his journal, and met with the allies he made on Port Blair, the island closest to the Sentinelese, to facilitate his passage to the island, which is forbidden by the Indian government. As he wrote: "My life becomes an incredible adventure when I follow the call of God."
The footage above of the Sentinelese from 1991 was taken by anthropologist T N Pandit of India's Ministry of Tribal Affairs who attempted to visit them for several decades. Usually, the Sentinelese hid or fired arrows, but in 1991 they waded into the ocean to meet Pandit and his team peacefully. More about that footage here.