The Sentinelese (also called the Sentineli or North Sentinel Islanders) are the indigenous people of North Sentinel Island in the Andaman Islands of India. One of the Andamanese people, they fiercely resist contact with the outside world. They are among the last people to remain virtually untouched and uncontacted by modern civilization.
The Sentinelese maintain an essentially hunter-gatherer society subsisting through hunting, fishing, and collecting wild plants. There is no evidence of either agricultural practices or methods of producing fire. The Sentinelese language remains unclassified and is not mutually intelligible with the Jarawa language of their nearest neighbors. The Sentinelese are designated as a Scheduled Tribe.
The precise population of the Sentinelese is not known. Estimates range from fewer than 40, through a median of around 250, and up to a maximum of 500. In 2001, Census of India officials recorded 39 individuals (21 males and 18 females); however, out of necessity this survey was conducted from a distance and almost certainly does not represent an accurate figure for the population which ranges over the 59.67 km2 (14,700 acres) island. The 2011 Census of India recorded only 15 individuals (12 males and three females). Any medium- or long-term effect on the Sentinelese population arising from the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and resulting tsunami is not known, other than the confirmation obtained that they had survived the immediate aftermath.
The Sentinelese and other indigenous Andamanese people are frequently described as negritos, a term which has been applied to various widely separated peoples in Southeast Asia, such as the Semang of the Malay Peninsula, the Aeta of the Philippines archipelago, as well as to other people in Australia including indigenous populations of Tasmania. The defining characteristics of these "negrito" people (who are not a monophyletic group) include a comparatively short stature, dark skin, and afro-textured hair.
Most of what is known about Sentinelese material culture is based on observations during contact attempts in the late 20th century. The Sentinelese maintain an essentially hunter-gatherer society, obtaining their subsistence through hunting, fishing, and collecting wild plants; there is no evidence of any agricultural practices and no evidence of fire making. Their dwellings are either shelter-type huts with no side walls and a floor sometimes laid out with palms and leaves, which provide enough space for a family of three or four and their belongings, or larger communal dwellings which may be some 12 square metres (130 sq ft) and are more elaborately constructed, with raised floors and partitioned family quarters.
Advanced metalwork is unknown, as raw materials on the island are extremely rare. It has been observed, however, that they have made adroit use of metal objects which have washed up or been left behind on their shores, having some ability at cold smithing and sharpening iron and incorporating it into weapons and other items. For example, in the late 1980s two international container ships ran aground on the island's external coral reefs; the Sentinelese retrieved several items of iron from the vessels.