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U.S. missionary killed by uncontacted tribe

by Courtney Deeren - Copy Editor
Wed, Dec 5th 2018 05:15 pm
The last trip John Chau (above) traveled to a remote island off the coast of India to contact the Sentinese people. Chau broke several laws in doing this and risked the lives of the tribespeople as well as those who helped him get to the island. Authorities are investigating anyone connected with Chau and his arrival on the island.
The last trip John Chau (above) traveled to a remote island off the coast of India to contact the Sentinese people. Chau broke several laws in doing this and risked the lives of the tribespeople as well as those who helped him get to the island. Authorities are investigating anyone connected with Chau and his arrival on the island.

A Vancouver, Washington man was recently killed by an uncontacted tribe on the Andaman Islands. John Chau was a missionary travelling to the Indian island to spread Christianity to the Sentinelese people.

Apparently Chau had been planning this mission’s trip for some time. In 2016 Chau visited the Andaman and Nicobar island chains to take diving lessons. While this didn’t seem unusual, officials now believe he was actually scouting the island the North Sentinelese people inhabited, and he reportedly visited the area three times over the last two years.

A friend of the man, Remco Snoeij said, “He shared a keen interest in researching and knowing more about them,” according to The Washington Post. Chau also visited the island under the guise of fishing trips, said director-general of police for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Dependra Pathak, as reported by Fox News. Apparently Chau was captivated by local lore that said two fishermen were strangled on the island in 2006 after travelling there to investigate reports of gold buried there by the Japanese military in WWII.

Another friend of Chau’s, John Middletown Ramsey, told The Washington Post his friend was distracted by thoughts of the island in 2016 when Chau visited him. Chau also apparently put off any romantic relationships because of his desire to go to the island. “He knew of the dangers of this place,” Ramsey said. “He didn’t want any hearts to get broken should something go wrong. He was very much aware of what he was doing. He also knew it wasn’t exactly legal.”

Chau joined the Missouri missionary group All-Nations. One of the groups leaders said Chau had “a desire to reach the North Sentinelese to learn their language,” according to The Washington Post.

During his trip Chau kept a diary, which revealed that he arrived in the Andaman’s on October 16. From there he convinced a fisherman to take him to the island. Chau wrote “God, I don’t want to die. WHO WILL TAKE MY PLACE IF I DO?”

Chau contacted the tribespeople, but was later killed when one of them shot him with a bow and arrow.

“He lost his mind, definitely,” Snoeij said. “But ask any adventurer. You have to lose your mind a little bit, otherwise, you don’t do it.”

Fishermen reportedly saw the tribe bury Chau on the beach, which has sparked debate on whether or not to bring his body home. Authorities say they don’t want to disturb the islanders and human rights organizations say any contact would be extremely dangerous to the tribe members fragile lifestyle.

In the aftermath of Chau’s death, police arrested five fisherman and two local contacts in connection to the incident. All travel to North Sentinel is illegal under Indian Law, according to Independent. Police are also investigating the possibility that Chau had met with two other American citizens in the Andaman capital of Port Blair in the days leading up to his departure for the island. He made contact with these two people in what his diaries describe as a safe house.

The All Nations’ group’s international executive leader, Mary Ho said “we encourage all our missionaries to go two by two at the very least, and there were several others who were willing to go with John Chau. At the very end, he personally decided to go alone. He knew that he was going into a risky situation,” according to an interview published by Christianity Today.

This event has also sparked debate over whether these tribes should be contacted or just left alone. When it comes down to it, not only is it dangerous, but it’s also unnecessary to go to these places and try and change their way of life. The arrival on these islands could potentially wipe out an entire tribe of indigenous people because they aren’t vaccinated and are more suceptible to contracting diseases.