Police stake out area where American killed by Andaman tribespeople...which begs the question: Why Bother?

Dec 2016
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#1
If anyone has been following this story of the 27 year old American missionary killed by natives of a small, protected reserve island in the Andaman Islands chain -- south of India, it's still an ongoing story for a couple of reasons:
1. Indian Government Police are trying to figure out how to search for and retrieve the body...reported by fishermen who took him there, to likely have been buried in the sand near the coast, after being shot through with arrows.
2. Government protocol demands a murder investigation with culprits being identified for prosecution for murder....if such a thing is possible or relevant considering the conditions of this protected space where ALL outsiders, including Indian Government authorities are NOT supposed to enter!

In both cases I have to ask: Why Bother? And this is where this odd news story about one of this world's last remaining "uncivilized" peoples becomes a philosophical issue for debate.
First issue: WHY is the body of a dead man who knowingly violated a whole host of laws, important and worth pursuing in the first place? What is it about dead, inert bodies that spooks supposedly modern, rational people into performing ceremonies for them and handling them in special ways (in case anyone else has been stuck with burial costs of an uninsured relation)? If you believe the brain...and perhaps including the central nervous system of our bodies are the source and limits of our consciousness, why..in this case, it worth risking death and injury to police, soldiers or more importantly- the uncontacted natives who the Government claims to be trying to preserve?

And even if you are a dualist, who believes in spite of neurological evidence that we have an inanimate soul that is the hub of our consciousness and leaves the physical body with all of the attributes of consciousness intact, then what is the point of revering the body left behind?

And, if you believe that murder is a crime so abhorrent that attempts must be made to identify and prosecute the perpetrayer, isn't this an obvious case where murder charges or any criminal charges do not apply?

For the background of the story-
Indian police trying to recover the remains of a 26-year-old American missionary killed by an isolated tribe are consulting anthropologists and staking out the island where he was attacked.​
Officers in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a remote Indian territory, are trying to determine whether the body of John Allen Chau can be retrieved, and whether any tribespeople can be charged for killing him after he trespassed on North Sentinel Island on 16 November.​
Police believe Chau, 26, a self-styled adventurer from Washington state, was killed nine days ago after trespassing on North Sentinel, an island about two-thirds the size of Manhattan in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an Indian territory.​
His death at the hands of the one of the world’s most mysterious communities has thrown up two new questions: Can Chau’s remains be retrieved? And can anyone be prosecuted for killing him?​
Police have attempted one aerial survey and two by boat since Chau’s death was first reported to officers on Tuesday. A helicopter flew over the island on Wednesday but kept its distance: the Sentinelese, an isolated tribe at least 30,000 years old, have shot arrows at helicopters that have approached too closely in the past.​
On Friday, police sailed to within about 300 metres of the island, bringing one of the fishermen alleged to have assisted Chau to reach the shore, and who says he saw his body being buried there on 17 November.​
“We located the place of this incidence and got a sketch map – this is a mandatory requirement in a criminal investigation,” Pathak said. “For about three hours we watched, and in this time we saw five or six Sentinelese moving about on the beach.​
“They were carrying a bow and arrow and looking towards sea side. I would say they were very watchful.”​
Police are interviewing anthropologists who have studied or interacted with the tribe, loosely estimated to number 100 people, for clues on how they respond in the aftermath of death.​
“Because they have killed somebody from outside, they have to have suffered a psychological shock,” he said. “Understanding this will help us in observing them and to draw a strategy if we want to move forward.”​
© AFP/Getty Images A Sentinelese tribesman photographed from a helicopter in 2004​
When a boat ran aground on North Sentinel Island in 2006, the two fishermen onboard were killed and buried in the sand. After about a week, according to police records, the tribespeople dug up the pair and hung them from bamboo poles facing the ocean.​
Should the Sentinelese do the same with Chau, it could present the only opportunity to identify or retrieve his body.​
“As per our information in that [2006] case, after five to seven days they had taken the body out of the sand and made it stand with the help of bamboo, facing the sea,” said Pathak.​
Kanchan Mukhopadhyay, a researcher with the Anthropological Survey of India who was previously stationed in the Andamans, said trying to retrieve Chau’s body threw up too many problems to be realistic.​
“It’s a restricted area and the government has decided a hands-off policy,” he said. “One has to go there, land there – and if they resist, what are we going to do?”​
He said Chau, who wrote that he wanted to “declare Jesus” to the Sentinelese, had knowingly violated the will of the tribe. “And this retrieval of the tribe will again violate the will of the people.”​
Seven people including five fishermen have been arrested for helping Chau reach close to the island – which he had labelled “Satan’s last abode” in his diary – on the evening of 14 September. According to his journal entries, he managed to set foot on the shore the following day, but was chased back on to the boat by the Sentinelese.​
He wrote that night: “I don’t want to die. Would it be wiser to leave and let someone else continue? No. I don’t think so. I still could make it back to the US somehow, as it almost seems like certain death to stay here.”​
The next afternoon, he kayaked back to the island. Two fishermen saw the Sentinelese dragging his body and burying it the next morning.​
The Sentinelese are regarded as one of the world’s most isolated communities, resisting both British colonisers and efforts by Indian administrators to integrate them into the surrounding islands. Since 1996 the Indian government has had a policy of leaving the tribe alone, enforcing a buffer zone around their island.​
At first, when this story was being reported to news outlets, either Chau's family, friends or fellow missionaries who were talking to media, were trying to present a case that he did not go to the island to preach or convert the locals....and that he was acting as an 'explorer' and 'adventurer' in his quest. That story has been revealed as a fraud and undone by John Allan Chau's own diaries....at least the parts that are legible...since his handwriting is very hard to read through! He went there for reasons he states in his diaries and motivated him to risk his life, which we find in his comments about the island being "Satan's" last abode:
A Man’s Last Letter Before Being Killed on a Forbidden Island


There's a line...I don't know it's source...about the 'road to hell being paved with good intentions.' And even apparently well-intentioned missionaries like John Allen Chau are a prime example! He goes bearing gifts....bribing the locals in the time-honored tradition....that's how they invaded at the leading edge of the conquistadors and other opportunists coming from Europe 500 years ago and overran two continents besides most of the rest of the world to essentially cloroform local cultures and traditions wherever they went and impose monotheism and capitalism....the other mostly unmentioned religion that started in Europe as soon as formal banking got underway!

It's been pointed out more than a few times over the past week that Chau's reckless actions visiting this island several times before being killed by the natives could unleash lethal diseases upon a people who have no natural immunity to outside diseases they've never been exposed to. But the worst violence comes fro obliterating what's left of pre-existing cultures and their spiritual beliefs and traditions. For modern anthropologists, missionaries have been the equivalent to a global pandemic. One thing for sure, he's certain to be a candidate for next year's Darwin Awards!


 
Dec 2013
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Beware of watermelons
#3
So weird. They got metal tools as a ship got stranded on their shores, the people were rescued but the ship was abandoned. The tribe scavenged (maybe wrong word) the ship extracting useful things.

Years before another religious zellot went to their island and it became a tragedy for the peoples so they view all trespassers as a threat.

That guy choose his fate why more people from both sides should be put at risk is beyond me. But i feel the same way about people who go climbing a mountain then get stuck. Next thing you know there is millions of dollars being spent on their"rescue" screw them.

A strange aside ..why would they have been seen "burying the body" doest that seem a bit off?
 
Nov 2013
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#4
If the Sentinelese put up Chau's body on display, facing the sea - that would be the easiest way to retrieve the body. Positive ID should be doable by dental records, any broken bones or scars from his past. If not, an IR scan of the beach would show temperature anomalies - which could correspond to a buried body. But @ that point, you'd need commandos or something like US SEALS to go in, find the body, & extract.

Preferably @ night, with NVG, & erasing all traces of their presence as best they could. It's doable, but would require governmental approval & lots of cooperation. The only argument that might carry weight with the Indian government - is to extract the body & so prevent any postmortem contamination of the Sentinelese environment - even though that seems unlikely, in hindsight. The damage has likely been done, if the locals manhandled Chau's body into a grave.

It's understandable that Chau's survivors would like to have the body back for a proper burial. But if the Indian government won't budge, then it's out of everybody's hands. Condolences to the family & friends.
 
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Dec 2016
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#5
So weird. They got metal tools as a ship got stranded on their shores, the people were rescued but the ship was abandoned. The tribe scavenged (maybe wrong word) the ship extracting useful things.

Years before another religious zellot went to their island and it became a tragedy for the peoples so they view all trespassers as a threat.

That guy choose his fate why more people from both sides should be put at risk is beyond me. But i feel the same way about people who go climbing a mountain then get stuck. Next thing you know there is millions of dollars being spent on their"rescue" screw them.

A strange aside ..why would they have been seen "burying the body" doest that seem a bit off?
You could be right! Offhand, we know that rainforest dwellers quickly developed a hostility to adventurers traveling by boat through their waterways. The Amazon River in fact gets its name from the first Portuguese explorers noticing women along the shore in one location firing arrows at them. The pattern of "discovery" in the Amazon ever since, has been for the foreign conquistadors to preach, bribe and subdue their way upriver....those people who were won over become part of the missionary settlements, while those opposed would retreat further upriver and off into the jungle, until today, where there are likely no uncontacted people left in the Amazon.

One thing that get missed in the discussions about 'primitives' is they have long...very long memories, which become encapsulated and mythologized as part of repeated oral histories. So, when it comes to the Andaman Islands, all of these islands...even the ones "civilized today," had long been inhospitable to travelers. It may have been because of attacks carried out by boat people in the past, or they may have noticed a correlation that Amazonian tribespeople noted between arrival of white foreigners and plagues that made their people sick and die from diseases.

One thing that struck me from the photo which has circulated around this past week, is the size of that guy's bow! It's as tall as the bowman carrying it; and I wonder why would the inhabitants of this island make longbows...which in the west, were developed for warfare/not hunting back in the middle ages as a weapon against armoured soldiers! The sightings from helicopter note the surprising velocity and range of their arrows, and coming from a difficult-to-wield weapon like that, it's not surprising. But, I wonder if it's their own technological innovation to try to defend themselves from bad things flying above them....but that's just pure speculation!
 
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Dec 2016
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#6
If the Sentinelese put up Chau's body on display, facing the sea - that would be the easiest way to retrieve the body. Positive ID should be doable by dental records, any broken bones or scars from his past. If not, an IR scan of the beach would show temperature anomalies - which could correspond to a buried body. But @ that point, you'd need commandos or something like US SEALS to go in, find the body, & extract.

Preferably @ night, with NVG, & erasing all traces of their presence as best they could. It's doable, but would require governmental approval & lots of cooperation. The only argument that might carry weight with the Indian government - is to extract the body & so prevent any postmortem contamination of the Sentinelese environment - even though that seems unlikely, in hindsight. The damage has likely been done, if the locals manhandled Chau's body into a grave.

It's understandable that Chau's survivors would like to have the body back for a proper burial. But if the Indian government won't budge, then it's out of everybody's hands. Condolences to the family & friends.
I still don't get the importance of having the body buried in the ground back home....I am much more in favour of cremation, instead of embalming corpses so they can't go back to the earth and actually make cemeteries toxic, along with using up real estate that could serve productive purposes.
But, as you mentioned, the Indian authorities are hoping they dig up the body and put it on display, so it could be easy to dash in and take it away without stirring up too much trouble!
 
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Apr 2015
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#7
These people have been isolated for so long that regular contact with the outside world is guaranteed to ensure the death of most of the tribe through exposure to diseases to which they have no immunity.
 
Apr 2015
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#8
One thing that struck me from the photo which has circulated around this past week, is the size of that guy's bow! It's as tall as the bowman carrying it; and I wonder why would the inhabitants of this island make longbows...which in the west, were developed for warfare/not hunting back in the middle ages as a weapon against armoured soldiers! The sightings from helicopter note the surprising velocity and range of their arrows, and coming from a difficult-to-wield weapon like that, it's not surprising. But, I wonder if it's their own technological innovation to try to defend themselves from bad things flying above them....but that's just pure speculation!
There are various types of longbow and their use has been dated as far back as 3,000 BC.
The power of the longbow is based mainly on it's draw weight, and that varies on it's strength to withstand the strain and the strength of it's user. English longbowmen trained for years to build up the power in their drawing arm.
As for the natives longbow, it looks fairly thick in width, so while it would still be an effective weapon, its maximum draw weight will probably be a lot less than an English military longbow of the Hundred Years War period.
 
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#9
Fool, who deserves the final disrespect of his corpse being left to rot on an island so far away from home. He truly follows in the footsteps of Saint Boniface, who dared to charge headlong into Germania, and was cleaved by an axe.
 
Dec 2016
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#10
There are various types of longbow and their use has been dated as far back as 3,000 BC.
The power of the longbow is based mainly on it's draw weight, and that varies on it's strength to withstand the strain and the strength of it's user. English longbowmen trained for years to build up the power in their drawing arm.
As for the natives longbow, it looks fairly thick in width, so while it would still be an effective weapon, its maximum draw weight will probably be a lot less than an English military longbow of the Hundred Years War period.
Yes, I don't know if there's any way to compare their bows with the ones the English used to bring an end to the era of Knights on Horseback, without having a chance to go to the island and examine one of them. But, I imagine the kind of wood and how flexible that wood is, would have an impact on draw weight! The anecdotes from fishermen traveling near their shores or observers in helicopters would indicate it's a pretty formidable weapon..

And if we consider that small islands are not home to large animals (even Wooley Mammoths which survived until 10,000 years ago on Wrangel Island off Siberia shrunk down to four or five feet in length), these would not be weapons for hunting, but instead something to wield for defense of their island.....since they didn't get around to building walls yet!