Should uncontacted peoples remain isolated forever?


Mikala Kass

A young American man was recently killed by the indigenous inhabitants of North Sentinel Island — one of the few uncontacted human groups on the planet, known to be violent towards intruders — while attempting an evangelical mission there.

Though his actions were illegal according to the Indian government, which protects the island, they shine a light on the moral debates that surround the policies affecting the islanders.

Is it right for the Indian government to prohibit outsider contact with the Sentinelese, as it does now? Or is it inhumane to deprive them of interactions with other cultures, not to mention the potential for education, health care and technology that much of the world enjoys?

Kim Hill, an anthropologist and professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University, argues that humans, as a social species, are not meant to live cut off from the rest of the world, and that experts should work on learning what the islanders want for themselves.

“Humans are an extremely social species. No groups want to live isolated forever. They do it out of fear,” he said.

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