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Endangered, Reclusive: Know About The Sentinelese, Other Andaman Tribes

Endangered, Reclusive: Know About The Sentinelese, Other Andaman Tribes
Tribal people in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. (Source- Wikimedia Commons)

Discovering India

Endangered, Reclusive: Know About The Sentinelese, Other Andaman Tribes

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are home to six indigenous tribes.

An American man was killed in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands by the indigenous Sentinelese tribe on 16 November.

The man, identified as John Allen Chau,was killed after venturing illegally to the North Sentinel Island, where the reclusive tribe resides, the police have said.

Strict government regulations prevent interaction with the indigenous people who react violently when they see outsiders.

In 2006, two Indian fishermen, who had moored their boat near the island to sleep, were killed by the Sentinelese when their boat broke loose and drifted onto the shore, stated Survival International.

The Sentinelese is one of the several indigenous tribes found in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Tribal Shades Of Andaman And Nicobar Islands

(Source -

(Source –

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands shelter four Negrito and two Mongoloid tribes.

The Great Andamanese, the Onge, the Jarawas and the Sentinelese belong to the Negrito origin and still are at primitive a stage of economy, hunting-gathering.

The Mongoloid origin Nicobarese tribe has transformed their lifestyle, prospered and multiplied in numbers. But the other Mongoloid community, the Shompen, still rejects contact with the outside world.

The Negrito origin tribes are considered to have come from Africa to the islands up to 60,000 years ago.  Since then, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands remains the abode of the Negritos and the Mongoloids.

(Read – Understanding India’s Demography, From Population to Literacy and Sex Ratio)


The Sentinelese tribe is one of the world’s last Stone Age tribes.

They attracted attention during the 2004 Tsunami, when a member of the tribe was photographed on a beach, shooting arrows at a helicopter which was checking on their welfare, stated Survival International.

(Source- Survival International)

(Source- Survival International)

The tribe that lives in North Sentinel relies on gathering, hunting and fishing. Men carry spears, bows and arrows, while women wear fibre strings tied around their waists, necks and heads.

The Sentinelese reject all contact with outsiders and attack anyone who comes close. This resistance has inhibited the growth of their immune system, exposing the community to diseases and its tragic consequences.

Census 2011 estimated the population of the tribe to be under 50.

Last year, the government identified the Sentinelese as an “aboriginal tribe” and restricted people from capturing them on camera. It also makes periodic checks from a safe distance to ensure the survival of the tribe.

The Great Andamanese Tribe

(Source- Wikimedia Commons)

(Source- Wikimedia Commons)

The Great Andamanese were originally 10 distinct tribes like the Jeru, Bea, Bo, Khora and Pucikwar. Each tribe had its own language and culture.

The British had built an ‘Andaman Home’ to shelter the captured Great Andamanese tribes. Many of them died from disease and exploitation, including infants.

In the mid-19th century, there were at least 5000 members of the Great Andamanese Community. In a century-and-a half, the population is estimated to have come down to just about 50 individuals.

In 1970, the Indian authorities moved the remaining Great Andamanese to the tiny Strait Island, where they are now dependent on the government for food, shelter and clothing.

The Boa tribe vanished in 2010. Along with it, the Khora and Bo languages died. Currently, the tribesspeaking unique languages, Jeru and Sare, also face the danger of extinction.


The Onge tribe lived in two separate reserves in Andaman, Hut Bay and Dugong Creek, but moved further interior to the forest after the 2004 Tsunami.

In order to multiply and increase in numbers, the primitive Onge tribals,who earlier considered remarriage a taboo, have now given a nod to it. As the population of the tribe has fallen drastically to 94, remarriages could save them from extinction.

According to the official website of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Onges were devastated in the 19th Century. The population of the tribe in 1901 was 672, but now it has been reduced to 94. This includes 24 men, 32 women, 23 boys and 15 girls.

(Read – Meghalaya’s Living Root Bridges: Where Nature Has Met Human Ingenuity)


(Source- Wikimedia Commons)

(Source- Wikimedia Commons)

The Jarawa tribe lives in oval huts, uses rafts and are expert swimmers. Almost 320 in number, Jarawas live in the thick forests of the Middle Andaman and lived totally isolated from the world till very late.

For the first time, on 21 October, 1997, eight Jarawas emerged from the jungle close to Kadamtala in Middle Andaman in search for food. They pointed to their bellies and were fed bananas and coconuts. The villagers sent them back as they feared that other members of their community might attack them with their arrows. The incident triggered a regular arrival of Jarawas to villages.

The language of the community is still not known but the tribesmen have now also picked up Hindi and other languages through their contact with people outside their forest home.


The huge population of Nicobarese suffered due to the killer waves of the Tsunami in December 2004. The population of the Nicobarese tribe is, however, still in the thousands. This has prompted the government to launch a population control programme among them.

(Source -

(Source –

The Nicobarese inhabit villages close to the sea shore, practising horticulture and pig-herding. Nicobarese families are patriarchal and live jointly, known as Tuhet. Love marriage is very common and the age of marriage is sufficiently high.


Shompen is one of the “most isolated and poorly understood” contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes that live in about 12 habitations made of bamboo and leaf thatch.

The 2001 Census reported its population to be 398. The population of the community has been affected by disease and infection brought by colonisation.

The government has initiated efforts for protecting the fast-depleting tribe and has also proposed granting it the status of “unique human heritage” of the country.

(Read –India’s Geography: Get To Know The Country’s Distinct Regions)

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