John Allen Chau

An American national, John Allen Chau, was killed by Sentinelese on their island. An island off-limits to everyone but the Sentinelese.

The Superintendent of Police at Port Blair on South Andaman Island is Jatin Narwal, He said that John was last seen alive on November 16 by the fishermen who took him to the North Sentinel Island. He had traveled at night to North Sentinel Island to avoid detection by authorities. Chau wrote of seeing bioluminescent plankton under a canopy of stars as fish jumped in and out of the water like “darting mermaids.” After paddling in a kayak to the shore, Chau tried to engage the inhabitants by offering gifts of fish, scissors and safety pins and singing songs. This is from his journal which his mother has since allowed to be released.

The 27-year-old had decided to visit the Sentinelese without government permission and asked a local friend to get a boat and find several fishermen to help with the expedition. The fishermen said they helped Chau for money “to travel to the island on November 15.” The boat stopped offshore and Chau then “used a canoe to reach the shore of the island.” He returned with an arrow through his Bible. The next day, November 16, John returned to the boat swimming because the Sentinelese had taken his canoe. On the 17th, he instructed the fishermen to leave with the boat and return later in the day. They returned to see the tribespeople burying his body on the beach.

“He was from the US. He was on a misplaced adventure in prohibited area to meet uncontacted persons. Some people thought he is a missionary but in a strict sense, he was not a missionary. He was an adventurer. His intention was to meet the aborigines,” Andaman DGP Dependra Pathak said.

The DGP added, “His body has not yet been retrieved. We are working on that. We will figure out some strategy,” he said. He added that the local fishermen who helped John have been arrested.

Jatin Narwal said that according to the fishermen. “He went to the North Sentinel island on November 15, 16 and 17. He had some handwritten notes and he gave them to the fishermen. He wanted them handed over to a friend in Havelock Islands.” Narwal refused to disclose details of what was on the notes and said they were part of investigation. Police officials refused comment on whether the members of the Sentinalese tribes could be prosecuted.

John Chau describes himself variously on Instagram as a “Wilderness EMT(Emergency Medical Technician)”, “PADI Advanced Open Water Diver”, “Outbound Collective Explorer” and a “Snakebite Survivor”. From trekking iced-capped mountains, hiking nature reserves, kayaking and scuba diving, John’s Instagram account is filled with pictures of his outdoor adventures.

In an interview that he had given to the Outbound Collective. He said, “I definitely love camping, hiking, climbing, and fishing. I love to explore, so whether it’s trekking through dense old growth forests near the Chilliwack River, finding a rumored waterfall in the jungles of the Andamans, or just wandering around a city to get a feel for the vibes, I’m an explorer at heart.”

This wasn’t his first trip to the Andamans. His Instagram shows that photos were uploaded from the Andamans in March 2017 as well as some dated in October 2016, when he stayed for nine days at Havelock island, east of the Andamans.

In an interview published in November 2015 on The Outbound Collective, John’s response to “What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?” was, “Going to the Andamans is on the top”

This was John’s sixth visit to the Andaman islands.

Now, according to Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation Act, a person requires a ‘pass’ for venturing into any of the restricted areas like North Sentinel island. This must be granted by the Deputy Commissioner of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The main reason for this is the spread of disease to the islanders. And no person has ever been allowed by the Sentinelese to stay on their island at any time in their known history.

And even if someone holds the pass, they are barred by law from collecting or carrying any forest produce, books, maps, photographs, films, religious or scientific artifacts to and from these areas. They are also not allowed to introduce any harmful things like weapons, drugs or any intoxicants into these areas.

Was Chau a missionary? He had gone overseas three times with groups like Covenant Journey and Oral Roberts University where he graduated. But this trip was all on his own. Chau told only a few people close to him about his intentions. One was Ramsey, who met Chau on a mission trip to Israel, who said Chau knew the island was a restricted area and going there was illegal.

After Chau returned from a scouting trip, Ramsey recalled Chau talked about his plans to return to the remote region, bearing gifts for the Sentinelese people. He said he wanted to get to know their way of life, eventually share the gospel and perhaps translate the Bible into their language. “I kind of gathered that he would have been open to staying there for the rest of his life, but he didn’t explicitly say that,” Ramsey said. He knew there were risks “but it didn’t seem to frighten him.”

For that very reason, Chau didn’t want anyone to come with him to the island and put their lives in danger. Was he called by God to go there? Some missionaries have been killed spreading the gospel and are called martyrs. Other well-intention people have seen 75% of those they wanted to help, die from common diseases like influenza or measles.

Some see the islanders acting in a kind of self-defense. The only semi-friendly contact the islanders have ever tolerated involved receiving gifts or obtaining metal items they value highly. They made it clear that no one was welcome to stay on their island.

John had good intentions when he came to the natives but what if it gone different and his attempt led to the end of this people who may have lived there maybe thousands of years? It still might. John Allen Chau has focused attention on the few dozen people who live on this remote island.

One of the last things John Chau wrote in papers he left with the fishermen who aided him: “God, I don’t want to die.” Did he consider that the islanders who have no possibly immunity to any outside diseases wanted to live, as well? The natives made it clear they did not want him there at least twice without harming him.

You know, Jesus himself was asked to leave by local people once. He got back in his boat and left. Mark’s biography records this in chapter 5. But another time, when he was welcomed into a Samaritan city, he stayed there two days.

Those who promote aggressive missionary activity often quote the statement by Jesus, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

But Jesus also gave other instructions to his disciples: “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’

Will others come to this island to bring the gospel? This group is on several lists by Christion mission websites who make statements like “whatever it takes” and “by any means necessary”.

Back to Andaman Islands

Converting the Natives

The Last Journal of John Allen Chau