Andaman island tribe moved to capital

January 6, 2005

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One of the four 'Negrito' tribes of the Andaman Islands have been moved to the Islands' capital, Port Blair, by the local authorities.

The 43 Great Andamanese, already the most decimated of all the Andaman tribes, were living in a government settlement on Strait Island, but their village suffered serious damage in the tsunami.

The Great Andamanese population was estimated at 5,000 in 1848, but plummeted following settlement by the British, who cut down their forest, stole their land and killed their game. The British colonial authorities established a 'home' in Port Blair where they kept captured Great Andamanese. Of 150 Great Andamanese children born in the home, none survived beyond the age of two.

In 1970 the Indian government moved the 30 surviving Great Andamanese to a settlement on Strait Island – they have been totally dependent on the authorities for food, clothing and shelter ever since. Their population, however, has started to increase once again.

The Jarawa and Sentinelese tribes, in contrast, have continued to live self-sufficiently on their own land. The Sentinelese resist all contact with outsiders, and the Jarawa did so until very recently.

A Survival spokeswoman, Miriam Ross, said today, 'We hope that the Great Andamanese will be able to return soon to Strait Island. In the long term, they need to be able to regain some measure of self-sufficiency. Their fate serves as a warning of what could happen to the other tribes of the Islands if their territories are not properly protected.'

Speaking to Survival in 2004, a Great Andamanese woman named Lichu voiced her fears for the fate of one of the most isolated of the Andaman tribes, the Jarawa. 'I think what happened to us is going to happen to the Jarawa too… lots of settlers are hunting in the Jarawa area. There is not enough game left for the Jarawa.'

Survival campaigner Miriam Ross, who visited the islands in 2004 and is in close touch with contacts there, is available for interview. Tel (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]

Photos and footage available.