Should indigenous tribes remain isolated?

An American missionary has been killed while attempting to convert the Sentinelese tribe. John Chau, 26, had travelled by boat to North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean, but the inhabitants shot him with arrows, leaving him fatally injured. No visitors are allowed on the island as a governmental measure to protect the natives living there. Commentators discuss whether they need to be protected.

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Jutarnji list (HR) /

Happy hunter-gatherers

The Sentinelese have every right to seclusion, Jutarnji list believes:

“As sorry as I am for this young man I can understand the Sentinelese, who have lived for tens of thousands of years in peace, hunting and gathering berries like the Palaeolithic tribes before the Neolithic revolution. Generations of writers and poets have situated the imaginary land of Arcadia in this epoch, when people lived in unspoilt nature free of worries and cares and survived on what fell from the trees, literally. ... Do we really need to ask whether the Sentinelese are living their golden age or whether they need a fourth industrial revolution, digitalisation, robotic technology and all the other things we cling to as part of our reality?”

The Guardian (GB) /

Interference could mean extermination

History shows that tribes that live in isolation, like the Sentinelese in the Andamans, should be left alone, warns The Guardian:

“While the total population in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands has soared from 30,971 in 1951 to about 400,000, the number of indigenous people (excluding the Sentinelese) in the Andamans has sharply dwindled from a conservatively estimated 4,800 in 1858 to about 674. … The history of outsiders' relations with the indigenous people of the Andamans has a clear pattern - colonisation, exploitation and eventual extermination. If we are to learn anything from our past, it is that the Sentinelese should be left alone on North Sentinel Island.”

The Spectator (GB) /

Paternalist eco-Westerners' romanticised views

To exclude isolated tribes from the benefits of the modern world is inhumane, writes The Spectator:

“Feeling bored or exhausted with modern life, some eco-Westerners seem intent on bigging up the lifestyles of hidden, obscure tribes as a more authentic form of existence. It is their prejudices - against modernity, against Western civilisation itself - that drives their weird and paternalistic celebration of tribal life. In truth, there is nothing to celebrate in the exclusion of the Sentinelese people and other tribespeople from the gains of modernity, from the human family. Our common humanity demands that we make contact with these peoples and patiently try to convince them to become civilised.”