An American missionary has been killed while trying to reach a remote tribe living on an island belonging to India.
On Friday, John Allen Chau, 27, of Vancouver, Washington, reached North Sentinel Island, part of India's Andaman Islands, with the help of local fishermen. The island is inhabited by one of the last uncontacted tribes in the world.
It is against the law to contact the Sentinelese people. Taking photos or otherwise recording them can be punishable with up to three years in an Indian prison. One of the fears that the Indian government has is that diseases brought by outsiders could decimate the native population. These fears are not unfounded, since diseases brought by colonists and explorers to North America and the Caribbean often wreaked havoc on local populations who had never been exposed to these diseases before. There are believed to be about 150 members of this tribe.
After the fishermen dropped him off, they reportedly saw him get struck by arrows but keep walking. The fishermen panicked and left the island, but claimed that they saw the natives throwing a rope Chau's neck and drag him across the beach. Chau's body was recovered Tuesday.
This wasn't the first time Chau had visited these islands. The BBC quoted a local journalist who said that “[p]olice said Chau had previously visited North Sentinel island about four or five times with the help of local fishermen.”
International Christian Concern has reported that Chau was a missionary who “had expressed a strong desire to meet with the Sentinelese tribes to preach Christianity.”
A profile on The Outbound Collective that appears to belong to him mentioned that he liked exploring and talked about “ finding a rumoured waterfall in the jungles of the Andamans.” He also talked about his desire to go back to “the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India,” adding “there's so much to see and do there!”
Police have launched a murder investigation, but the Sentinelese cannot be prosecuted. The fishermen could face charges for assisting someone trying to contact the tribe.
"The investigation in this matter is on," senior police officer Deepak Yadav said, according to the Telegraph.