The inhabitants of North Sentinel Island may be the last uncontacted people on Earth. And they'd sure like to keep it that way.
For centuries, the island's reclusive, Indigenous people (known as the Sentinelese) have rejected most attempts by the outside world to infiltrate their tiny tropical home in the Bay of Bengal. In fact, anthropologists have no idea how many Sentinelese people live on the secluded island — estimates vary between 50 and 500.
In 2018, North Sentinel Island made the news when a young American missionary named John Allen Chau was killed on the island after repeatedly ignoring the Sentinelese's warnings to stay away. Chau was only the latest in a long line of unwelcome outsiders — merchants, escaped convicts, fisherman and filmmakers — whose intrusions onto the island have been met with an angry volley of arrows.
But the few tantalizing glimpses of life on isolated North Sentinel Island paint an intriguing picture of an untouched society of hunter-gatherers. The islanders live in primitive huts, spearfish from dugout canoes and wear no clothing at all. What's amazing is that this almost Neolithic society exists less than 20 miles (32 kilometers) from neighboring islands where Indigenous cultures have mixed with the modern world, not always with happy results.
"[These tribes] have been living on the islands for centuries without any problem. Their troubles started after they came into contact with outsiders," said Madhumala Chattopadhyay, an Indian anthropologist, in an interview for National Geographic. She was the first woman to visit the isolated tribe in the 1990s but has vowed never to go back. "The tribes of the islands do not need outsiders to protect them, what they need is to be left alone."