The Native Tribe That Killed A Christian Missionary Had A Good Reason To Distrust Him

Recently, a Christian missionary named John Allen Chau decided to “spread the word of God” to one of the few remaining “uncontacted” tribes on the planet—the Sentinelese, who live on the remote Andaman Islands off the coast of India.

The Sentinelese have a scant few brushes with modernity and they have a decades-long history of hostility towards anyone who comes to their shores. They’ve killed several people unlucky enough to have washed up on the island.

Chau was reportedly killed by the tribesman after being shot with an arrow. The 26-year-old’s journal and letters home were recovered and in them, he details his contact with the tribe.

According to his own account, Chau approached them with gifts including fish and a football (football seems like an off choice for a gift, but ok). “My name is John. I love you and Jesus loves you… Here is some fish!” Chau wrote that he told them before tossing the fish at them and running (again, odd choice).

Chau then received a “gift” from one of the boys in the tribe in return—a warning shot from a bow fired directly into the Bible he was holding to his chest.

“I stumbled back and I recall yelling at the kid for shooting me – now as I look back at it, my Bible cover looks like bark – like tree bark, so maybe he was just curious but yikes, it sure gave me a fright,” he wrote.

Unfortunately, rather than taking the hint Chau continued his efforts to spread Christianity to a group of indigenous people who clearly didn’t want to be messed with.

“The plan now is to rest and sleep on the boat and in the morning to drop me off by the [illegible] and then I walk along the beach toward the same hut I’ve been giving gifts to.” Chau wrote, according to the Daily Mail. “I DON’T WANT TO DIE! Would it be wiser to leave and let someone else continue? No. I don’t think so.”

Fishermen in the area later reported seeing tribesmen dragging Chau’s body away. Chau’s family posted a tribute to him on his Instagram account:


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John Allen Chau

A post shared by John Chau (@johnachau) on

In his writings, Chau is bewildered as to why this group of people might react with hostility to a strange visitor hurling fish and footballs at them.

“What makes them so defensive and hostile? Legends passed down through millenia of their escape from a slave ship? Why does this beautiful place have to have so much death here?” Chau wrote in his journal.

It turns out they have a good reason to be so “defensive and hostile” to interlopers. In the late 19th century, a European invader kidnapped some children and elderly Sentinelese and most likely treated them like exotic species to be measured and cataloged.

And there you have it. The full thread from @RespectableLaw is worth a read, it’s a fascinating and terrifying story of modernity and indigenous culture in conflict. It’s just too bad Chau didn’t read it before his ill-fated quest to “civilize” some human beings who didn’t want to be bothered.

h/t: Daily Mail, @RespectableLaw

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