For 65,000 years, ten Great Andamanese tribes have lived in the Andaman island chain 750 miles off the country’s eastern coast.
Last week, one of these tribes, the Bo tribe became extinct with the death of its last member, Boa Sr, age 85. She was the last living speaker of the tribe’s language, also called Bo, as well. The language was considered one of India’s most endangered languages.
As the last speaker, Boa Sr had lived out her last days without anyone to speak it with; her husband and children had already died years before her death. The woman was also the last tribe member to recall the tribe’s traditional songs, as well as the eldest member of all ten tribes.
Boa Sr, a survivor of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, died at a hospital in the Andaman islands.
According to Survival International, “The Bo are thought to have lived in the Andaman islands for as long as 65,000 years, making them the descendants of one of the oldest human cultures on earth.”
With Boa Sr’s passing, an estimated 52 Great Andamanese people remain living today. In 1858, prior to the British colonization of the islands, 5,000 of the people inhabited the islands. During this time, tribes were held captive in the “Andaman Home,” in which 150 children, none of which survived for more than two years, were born.
Of the tribes who remain, at least five are considered vulnerable to extinction. One group, the Sentinelese, is likely the world’s only surviving Paleolithic tribe. They have no contact with people outside their small island, never leave it, and are considered very hostile toward non-native people.
Some risk factors for these groups include alcohol abuse and dependence on the government for food and shelter.