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The tribes of Andaman: The Onges and the Sentinels


The Onges of Little Andaman


The Onges are the most primitive of the Negrito racial stock. They are confined to Hut bay and Dugong creek in Little Andaman. This tribe is primarily ‘nomadic’ and heavily dependent upon nature for food. Unfortunately, the Onges too could not adapt themselves to the drastic changes occurring over time.

The change in the demographic pattern of the island and interference from the non-tribal groups caused irreparable damage to the numbers. Their numbers further declined after the subsequent loss of much of their habitat due to deforestation. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands administration had to step  in to protect them when their population dwindled to around 50 odd only.

The situation now


Today, this tribe is being provided with better living facilities, medical assistance and clothes. The government took an initiative to open a primary school  in Dugong Creek for the tribal children.

These tribesmen are good in artistry and expert in making canoes; a skill that is being further encouraged. The elders of the tribe have also agreed to allow widows and widowers to remarry within the tribe (which was a taboo previously) with the aim to increase their population.

The Sentinels of Sentinel Island

The sentinels inhabit  North Sentinel Island which lies to the west of  the main Andaman group. It is said that they are probably the world’s only Paleolithic people surviving today, without any contact with any other community or group.

While very little is known about them, the sentinels are said to be a very hostile tribe limited to approximately 70 sq km area. Perhaps this is why the government has strictly prohibited tourists and other groups from approaching Sentinel Island; the outside world is not allowed to interact with or approach the tribe.

The main aim is to protect the tribe’s culture and traditional knowledge from outside influence. Additionally, any failure to comply with the government stated rules is punishable by law.

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