• Curious about veganism or vegetarianism? Why not ask us a question? (You don't have to sign up, or be vegan or vegetarian!)

Philosophy The ethics of isolating indigenous people from the outside world

Indian Summer

Cult Leader
Administrator
Recently, a Christian missionary was killed by indigenous people while visiting the forbidden North Sentinel islands. Apparently, the authorities have decided to isolate the local population from the outside world, as if they were some rare animal species needing protection so as not to go extinct.

Is it right to isolate an indigenous tribe in this manner? What if the tribe is really oppressive, xenophobic, misogynist, intolerant and so forth? How can we even know any of this while they're being isolated in this way? They probably believe the Earth is flat! Their gods may be even worse than some unflattering versions of the Christian god. We're also denying them access to the miracles of modern medicine. What if tribe members suffer from easily treatable diseases?

Do we not have a duty to help such tribes gently catch up with modern society?
 
Last edited:

Amy SF

Dweller in nature
From what I’ve read, this particular group of people has no immunity to outside diseases. Part of the reason for protecting them from outsiders is to keep them alive. There is also the consideration of protecting their culture from corruption of outside culture.

Beyond that, these people are known to be hostile to anyone who approaches their island. They killed Chau, and they also apparently killed two fishermen whose boat drifted too close to the island. They don’t give anyone a chance to get away alive. So there’s an obvious danger to anyone foolish enough to try to approach them.
 

shyvas

Deity
Forum Moderator
As they are obviously not harming anyone, except for people that get to close and also do not pose a threat
to the planet, I would leave them alone.
Perhaps they are happier and live a better life without our civilisation.
 

Indian Summer

Cult Leader
Administrator
Agreed that one would have to be careful not to transmit diseases and not get injured or killed. And that missionary had it coming.

However, we don't know that they're not harming each other, that it's not an oppressive, terrible society. We really need more information. How can we know it's not like a cult, a'la David Koresh? I think the idea that indigenous people live in almost ideal societies is akin to the romantic primitvism of the 'noble savage' myth.

I think a visitor would have to be someone appointed by the government of the country, in this case India. They would have to have the right qualifications, perhaps a background in social anthropology and communication, and perhaps have experience in interaction with other isolated indigenous groups. The initial goal would be to establish a friendly relationship and collect information. Then the government could decide how to proceed.
 

Indian Summer

Cult Leader
Administrator
From what I’ve read, this particular group of people has no immunity to outside diseases. Part of the reason for protecting them from outsiders is to keep them alive.
According to what I've read, that is not correct, in general. Conditions are quite different now compared to the 1500s. Modern people are generally healthier, are vaccinated and are not carriers of these kinds of diseases. So, at least if we assume only a few chosen people are sent to visit, then the sentinelese should not be at risk of lethal infectious disease.
 

Indian Summer

Cult Leader
Administrator
I'm reading that the police is obligated to investigate so that at least they can issue a death certificate for Chau (the missionary). It sounds like they're really trying their best not to further escalate the conflict, though:

A team of anthropologists are en route to the Andamans and will help police understand how they should proceed. “We have said from the beginning, we do not want a confrontation,” Pathak said. “As we draw up our strategy, and even to undertake a reconnaissance trip, we are in constant touch with academics and tribal welfare officials who have a better idea on [the tribe].”
More: Sentinel Island: calls to leave body of American killed by tribespeople (27. Nov. 2018)
 

shyvas

Deity
Forum Moderator
A team of anthropologists are en route to the Andamans and will help police understand how they should proceed. “We have said from the beginning, we do not want a confrontation,” Pathak said. “As we draw up our strategy, and even to undertake a reconnaissance trip, we are in constant touch with academics and tribal welfare officials who have a better idea on [the tribe].”


I don't think that an anthropologist will be of much help. They will be needing spear proof gear in they want to get to the island.
Upon the evidence that they have gathered, they should presume that Chau has been killed. The latter was aware of the risks that he was taking. Moreover, if the authorities pursue the investigation, more lives will be at stake. At the end of the day there will be no winners.

This is a highly unusual situation and laws should be adapted when necessary.
 

Andy_T

Addicted Poster
Forum Moderator
I think this article is helpful for this discussion:

Death of American missionary could put this indigenous tribe's survival at risk

It specifically mentions not-so-past examples of other tribes in South America and Asia that did not fare well after contact with “civilisation”

Scott Wallace said:
And like the pacified tribes of South America, indigenous peoples of the Andamans soon succumbed to contagious diseases and wholesale social disintegration in the wake of contact. The Jarawa tribe, after laying down their bows and arrows on South Andaman Island in the late 1990s, has endured two deadly outbreaks of measles.

Their once proud warriors have been reduced to listlessness and alcoholism, their children even made to dance for handouts by unscrupulous tour operators guiding “human safaris” along the trunk road that now cuts through their traditional territory. Other Andaman tribes in turn have suffered demographic shock and cultural collapse following efforts to force them into settled communities.
Now, here’s a novel approach ... let’s invite people who are descendants of prior “indigenous cultures” to share their views on this. Ask people from Native American tribes what they would suggest.

Another article...

Madhumala Chattopadhyay, the woman who made the Sentinelese put their arrows down
 
Last edited:
Top