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The American went to preach Christianity to isolated aborigines. Eyewitnesses claim he was killed

The last time they contacted the tribe in 2006 was when its members attacked two fishermen and drove the helicopter away with archery.

John Chow. Photos from American instagram
John Chow. Photos from American instagram

On November 21, police in the Andaman and Nicobar Indian Islands reported the death of 26-year-old American John Chau. In the middle of the month, he persuaded local fishermen to take him to the forbidden to visit the North Sentinel Island, where the Sentinelians live. This is a unique people who probably lived more than 60 thousand years without the ability to make fire and is known for its aggressive reaction to foreigners.

John Chau came to the Aborigines to acquaint them with the teachings of Jesus Christ, but local people reacted to his appearance with hostility and, according to eyewitnesses, were killed. Now the authorities have a difficult task – to return the body without disturbing the ancient people.

What did Chau encounter on the island

On November 14, John Chau’s plan went right – he was approaching the northern island of Sentinel. He had previously been in the area of ​​the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, so the terrain did not frighten him. Together with him on the boat were his two local friends and five fishermen. They all knew that it was prohibited by law to visit Sentinel Island, and its inhabitants were dangerous and aggressive. However, Chau pre-paid them for a trip of 25 thousand rupees (about $ 350).

Sentinel Island is considered one of the last unexplored territories on the planet. A small piece of land with an area of ​​about 70 square kilometers was of little interest to the British in the era of colonization, and even less worried people after that. The sailors shared with each other a legend about the cannibalism of the Sentinelles and their inability to survive outside the home (this is probably due to the fact that the aborigines do not have immunity from most diseases), but did not go further.

The anthropologist Triloknat Pandit (right) presents gifts to the Sentinelites, January 1991. Photos from the personal archive of the specialist
The anthropologist Triloknat Pandit (right) presents gifts to the Sentinelites, January 1991. Photos from the personal archive of the specialist

The first friendly contact with the Centinelles was established only at the sunset of the colonial era – January 4, 1991. A team of Indian researchers led by the anthropologist Triloknath Pandit arrived on the island with peace and gifts. Including coconuts – for some unknown reason, this presentation was most appreciated by the aborigines.

It took Pandit nearly 20 years to establish contact with the tribe. The first expeditions in the 1970s were pitiable, and often ended with the fact that scientists fired from bows. Once they donated a pig to the tribe, but the dark-skinned Aborigines simply killed and buried the animal, as if hinting that they did not need the gifts of foreigners.

In 1996, Indian activists and researchers demanded to stop equipping expeditions to the island and give gifts to the tribe, indicating that it destroys the traditional way of life of the people. The authorities agreed, and since then the police have defended the Sentinelites from undue attention of both civilians and academics.

Sentinele is aiming at an Indian Coast Guard helicopter, 2004. Getty Photos

Even when in 2006, the aborigines killed two fishermen who mistakenly found themselves near the island and took their bodies, the authorities ignored the relatives’ demands to intervene. The police tried to return the bodies by sending a helicopter to the island, but the locals immediately drove him away with arrows from their bows. After that, the father of one of the victims acknowledged that the people should be left alone – they were only protected from an unknown danger.

It is difficult to say how well the American preacher John Chau was familiar with the history of contacts with the Sentinelians when he arrived alone in a kayak to the shore of their house. “God protected and protected me from the coast guard and naval forces,” says the Chow diary.

On the very first day of his missionary, the tourist faced the aggression of the natives: a young boy shot him with a bow, but somehow did not hurt, but hit the tourist’s Bible. “Why did this boy shoot me? His piercing cry is still spinning in my head, ”wrote an American. From the records it follows that he understood the risk and knew that he could be killed, but he wanted to convey to the natives the values ​​of Christ.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]At the first meeting with the natives, they shouted at Chow, and he repeated what he had said. The participants laughed at the stranger, and the American suggested that what he said meant a curse.[/perfectpullquote]

As gifts for the natives, the missionary picked up scissors, safety pins and a soccer ball. “In the language of the tribe there are a lot of loud sounds like“ Ba ”,“ Pa ”,“ La ”and“ Al ”,” Chau wrote. He also noted that about 250 natives live on the island, and about ten people live in each dwelling.

Indian researchers have yet to deal with the latest statement. It completely contradicts the population census of 2011, from which it follows that only 15 Sentinelians remained on the island – 12 men and three women. The exact number of the remaining natives will be determined only during the next census of the island’s population, which is scheduled for 2021.

In one of the latest entries, Chau wonders why the locals are so aggressive towards him. The following is an appeal to the readers: “[I] do this to establish the kingdom of Jesus on the island. Do not blame the natives if they kill me. ” Apparently, a missionary was attacked shortly thereafter. Two days after his appearance on the island, on November 17, the companions who arrived behind him saw the Sentinelles bury the tourist’s body in the sand.

What actions does the police take

About the alleged death of Chau became known four days after his arrival on the island. At the request of the man, the fishermen did not go to the police, but informed the American friend about the incident. He contacted the preacher’s family and on November 19 the American embassy in India reported to the local police about the disappearance of Chau.

The police arrested seven people, including five fishermen, who helped the tourist to get to the “restricted area”. Investigators are questioning them about the details of the incident, but it is not known what punishment they face. The police are faced with a much more urgent task – to take the body of an American. Without it, they will not be able to determine the exact cause of Chow’s death.

The authorities conducted an air reconnaissance of the situation on the island (this time without fire from the bows), and also sent a Coast Guard detachment to the zone of the alleged death of Chau. According to the Associated Press, it is not yet known whether the police have returned.

Friendly traveler and volunteer – what did John Chow do

Chau was born in Washington State and attended a local Christian school, and then moved to Oklahoma and graduated from an interfaith Christian university. In parallel with his studies, he participated in the religious activities of the institution and traveled to various regions. “I have not met a braver, more disinterested, compassionate person and friend. John gave his life to share the love of Jesus with everyone, ” says friend of the deceased, Bobby Parks.

John Chau, center, at a friend's wedding in New Jersey, June 2018. Photos from American instagram
John Chau, center, at a friend’s wedding in New Jersey, June 2018. Photos from American instagram

Chau has collaborated with the non-profit sports organization to help children with disabilities, including those in need. In 2014, the American flew to the north of Iraq and helped Syrian and Iraqi refugees. In California, he worked as aspecialist in first aid in the wild and nearly lost his leg after being bitten by a rattlesnake.

In the Instagram on Chau signed 10 thousand people: there he often shared photos taken during travels, and stories from life. On November 22, Chau’s relatives published a record in the social network in which they asked to release the suspects in his death and not blame anyone for what happened.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]He loved God, life, helped those in need and experienced only love for the Sentinelles.[/perfectpullquote]
excerpt from the treatment of relatives of John Chau
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