North Sentinel Island: The World’s Last Stone Age Tribe and The Death of John Chau

Armed with a waterproof bible and fish, a young American missionary and beef jerky marketer decided to bring Jesus to the reclusive tribe of North Sentinel Island. His body has never been recovered. But who was behind this kamikaze mission, really?

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North Sentinel Island is a small island around seven kilometers by seven kilometers in size, roughly 23 square miles, located in the Bay of Bengal. It’s a unique place, as it's forbidden to visit. The Indian government made it illegal for anyone to get within three miles of the island and its reclusive inhabitants. If you like our content, please become a patron to get all our episodes ad-free.

The Sentinelese are an indigenous tribe of hunter gatherers, living life in a not too dissimilar way to how our ancestors would've lived about 60,000 years ago. 1

The island made headlines in 2018, after John Allen Chau, a 26-year-old American evangelical missionary, blogger and beef jerky marketer set sail to the island in hoping to convert the reclusive tribe and welcome its members to Christianity.

In 2017 he had been accepted to a boot camp run by All Nations, a Kansas City organization that works to see Jesus “worshipped by every tongue, tribe and nation”. All Nations urges Christians to live by a “wartime mentality” and “make strategic decisions in the battle we’re waging against a real enemy”, waging a war against Satan. 2

John Chau was killed by the Sentinelese and his body was never recovered from the island, despite attempts made by authorities.

In the last century, many anthropologists and scientists have tried to make contact with the Sentinelese. This usually never went well; many people were killed by the islanders and many islanders were killed by diseases brought by visitors. The only remotely successful people were Madhumala Chattopadhyay and Triloknath Pandit, two famous Indian anthropologists.

The Sentinelese have no immunity to diseases carried by outsiders, and they learned over time that contact with others brings only death. Understandably, they do not welcome visitors.