The Sentinelese Are Modern Civilization Too

The Last “Uncivilized” Place on Earth


Shown above is an aerial view of an island in the Bay of Bengal, the North Sentinel Island. The island is covered with trees and other vegetation, surrounded by coral reefs, and therefore lacks natural harbors. It looks uninhabited from the sky, yet there is a civilization that has had very limited contact with the outside world for over 60,000 years.

The Sentinelese people are anywhere from 50-400 individuals, with what is believed to be their own language. Anthropologists know little about them, mainly due to India’s three-mile exclusion zone. The Indian government implemented this safe zone not only for the safety of the Sentinelese, but for everyone else. In the few photographs that have been taken of the Sentinelese people, there is clear hostility towards outsiders. In the picture below, the Sentinelese stand at the shore, spears and bows in hand. They have thrown spears and shot arrows at helicopters and any ships that have come too close. There is a shipwreck off of one of the coasts, where it is believed that two fishermen were fishing inside the exclusion zone and were killed by the Sentinelese for trespassing.


The little contact with these people includes the kidnapping of six people in 1879. Four children and an elderly couple were taken from the island to Port Blair, where the colonial officer who kidnapped them stated that the elders sickened and died. They sent the weakened children back to the island with supplies, where an epidemic most likely started.

The other major reason that there is a three-mile exclusion zone is because these people do not have the immunities to diseases that most of the modern world now possesses. As far as experts know, they have no vaccines or immunities, so sending people ashore would ensure the death of every Sentinelese person on the island. The Sentinelese live without electricity, automatic weaponry, and all the technology that the majority of the Western World could not live easily without.

Despite the differences in their culture versus Western World culture, the Sentinelese are a modern civilization, because they are a surviving culture today. The ignorance of some people in Europe and America towards these non-Western World people has caused a stirring on social media sites. There are people saying to “send the military in” and “wipe them out,” while others agree with their no-contact policy. Due to the ease of travel and the expectation that travel makes a person more learned, there are also people who want to explore the island and exploit what the Sentinelese people have to offer. There is a common stereotype that cultures without modern technology are savage and wild. The idea that Western colonization is necessary for a civilization to be seen as “advanced” in the modern world shows how the Western World can be close-minded and ignorant of the importance of all cultures.

What is known about the Sentinelese people is that they are strong, healthy, and unwilling to come in contact with outsiders. The no-contact policy is the safest course of action, and most respectful, since that is the policy the Sentinelese seem to uphold.


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