Inside isolated tribe where natives killed missionary trying to convert them

Maintaining complete isolation for their entire history, the North Sentinelese are not so keen on visitors, nor preachers, helicopters or even gifts of coconuts.

The island has for decades been under the protection of the Indian government, who forbids anyone from attempting contact with those living on North Sentinel Island.

One of the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, the indigenous people are adamant on keeping themselves to themselves, as one Christian missionary found when he tried to "convert them".

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Anyone closer than 9.3km to the island is in breach of the immunity acquired by the island, which is now patrolled by the Indian Navy.

But some are still adamant on heading to the Bay of Bengal island, and pay the price for their journey.

John Allen Chau had hoped to bring information relating to Christianity to the tribe, with the 26-year-old adamant on spreading the message after heading through a missionary "boot camp".

He tried and failed to establish contact with the island in October 2018, travelling with a contact kit including gifts, medical equipment and perceived modern necessities the island has no knowledge of.

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Peaceful contact had first been achieved in January 1991, when Triloknath Pandit, a director of the Anthropological Survey of India, gifted the island coconuts.

But no progress was made on understanding the unique language of the islanders, and Pandit and his fellow peacebrokers were ushered off of the island if they stayed too long.

From 1997 onward, relations with the islanders were strained, including an incident in 2004 when Indian representatives, attempting to check on the islanders following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, were attacked.

Islanders were thankfully found alive and well, but began lobbing sticks and rocks at the helicopter sent to check on them.

Beyond the helicopter appearance and the death of two fishermen — Sunder Raj and Pandit Tiwari — the island had been left well alone for years.

But Chau attempted contact, and in November 2018, trained by the Missouri, United States-based All Nations missionary group, sent out to "preach Christianity".

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His trip to the island did not go so well, with fishermen illegally ferrying Chau to the island.

Those same fishermen later claimed to see tribesmen drag a body along the beach and bury it, presumed to be Chau, although attempts to retrieve or even confirm his death proved difficult.

A tense stand-off between Indian authorities and North Sentinel Islanders followed, and after several attempts to retrieve the body, government officials gave up.

It was deemed too risky to justify any further attempts at trying to recover Chau's body, and there have been no further attempts to visit the island since.

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