You've just been chosen as a contestant for "Survivor: Andamans." But instead of immunity idols, there are red buckets. Instead of elimination challenges, there's smallpox. And instead of Parvati, Hatch and Vecepia, there are British imperialists and Indian bureaucrats trying to wipe you out. What do you do? Kill them first.
Welcome to Sentinel Island!
The Sentinelese occupy North Sentinel Island
in the Andaman Archipelago, more than 800 miles east of India. They paddled over from India about 60,000 years ago, hung out a giant "Do Not Disturb" sign, and spent the next 60 millennia hunting, gathering and having outdoor sex (more on that later, we promise).
As one of the last Uncontacted Peoples
, they may be the only humans in the world who don't know Justin Bieber. And to keep that dream a reality, they'll kill anyone who sets foot on their island.
Spears, the Universal Language
There's no evidence that they have an alphabet, and no outsider knows their language, so they've resorted to sticking people with sharp objects to get their message across. They have been helped by the fact that their message is a simple one (loosely translated, it is "Get off my lawn!
"), but considering that they've had to use 8-foot harpoons instead of BlackBerrys, they've been remarkably effective.
To be fair, they haven't actually killed anyone for four years. In 2006, they did whack two guys fishing illegally off their shore, but for all we know, that could just have been for failure to get a fishing permit. Back in 1981, they laid siege to a shipwrecked cargo vessel
. And once, in 1970, they tried to make love, not war, by sexing up one another in front of the visiting anthropologists
-- but that was the '70s, man.
Both the British and the Indians have attempted to bring them the benefits of civilization, like measles and politics. So far, the Sentinelese have only been interested in fish and coconuts (tossed to them from a safe distance) and red buckets
. Green buckets are ignored, but red ones are apparently the Xbox Kinect of Sentinelese consumer culture.
The most important thing to note about the Sentinelese "Screw Off and Die" policy is that it works. Other Andamanese tribes have been wiped out by contact with the outside world, while we barely know what these guys look like. (The photo to the left is of members of a different Andaman tribe.)
But attacking strangers will only work until the strangers decide they want what you've got -- like tasty, tasty waves. In 1998, photographer John Callahan organized the first surfari to the Andamans
, so it's only a matter of time before somebody wants to surf Sentinel.
And then all bets are off.