India Gives Up Attempt To Retrieve Body Of U.S. Missionary Killed By Isolated Tribe

A remote island in the Indian Ocean.
Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH / Shutterstock

Authorities have announced that they have decided to abort the mission to recover the body of John Allen Chau, the American missionary killed by an isolated island tribe in India, reports the Guardian.

An anthropologist commented that it was impossible to access the remote island — and retrieve the body — after attempts to do so led to conflicts with the Sentinelese, the small tribe who live on North Sentinel Island.

“We have decided not to disturb the Sentinelese. We have not tried to contact them for the past many days, and have decided not to continue trying… We should not hamper their sentiments. They shoot arrows on any invader. That is their message, saying don’t come on the island, and we respect this.”

He added that there were concerns that a clash between outsiders and the Sentinelese could cause the island tribe to become more protective of their territory, and disrupt the peace between them and the Indian government. He commented further that the U.S. embassy in Delhi is also reportedly on board with the decision to end retrieval efforts, specifying, “they understand the situation and are not pressing us.”

The tribe has consistently resisted contact with outsiders for over 30,000 years, leading to a policy issued by the Indian government that the community should be left alone.

Chau, 26, is believed to have paid several fishermen to ferry him to the island in an effort to carry out his missionary work. The fishermen left him a short ways from the island, where he then kayaked the rest of the way. He was reportedly killed sometime between the afternoon of November 16 and the following morning — after the same fishermen saw him get hit by an arrow.

“The fishermen who were back in the dinghy saw an arrow hit him. Later they said he was taken deeper [into the island] and buried,” the Guardian cited Denis Giles, an activist for the rights of tribal groups. Giles added that the fishermen had warned Chau that the tribe was hostile, and attempting to contact them was a “risky thing.”

Chau left his diary with the fishermen before continuing to the island, in which he had written a letter to his family explaining his mission.

“You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worthwhile to declare Jesus to these people. God, I don’t want to die.”

Without a physical body to show proof of death, the issuing of a death certificate will be complicated. However, an investigation looking into the seven fishermen accused of helping Chau reach the island will continue.