Could This Be the Future of Okinawans?

Ancient Tribe Goes Extinct as Last Member Dies

Updated: 21 hours 38 minutes ago  AOLnews.com/world
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(Feb. 5) – Marking the end of a language and an entire people, the last member of the Bo, an ancient tribe that lived in the Andaman Islands, has died.

When Boa Sr, as she was known, died last week, she was believed to be about 85 years old. Her husband had died years beforehand, and Boa, whose name means “land” or “earth” in the Bo language, had no children.

Boa Sr

CNN
When Boa Sr, the last member of the Bo tribe of the Andaman Islands, died last week, the Bo language died along with her.
“She was the only person who spoke Bo,” Anvita Abbi, a professor of linguistics at India’s Jawaharlal National University, told The Times of London. “At times, she felt very isolated and lonely as she had no one to talk to in her own language.”
The Bos’ Downfall

In 1858, when the British decided to colonize the Andaman Islands and use them as a penal colony, they estimated that 5,000 Great Andamanese lived there.

“At first, the British didn’t notice any difference between the tribes,” said Sophie Grig, senior campaigner at Survival International.

But in 1879, a British officer named M.V. Portman was appointed officer in charge of the Andamanese, and after years of attempting to acclimate them to life as British subjects, Portman wrote “A Manual of the Andamanese Languages,” which distinguished the differences among tribal languages.

Portman’s own obituary, which appeared in The Times on Feb. 22, 1935, reads:

In many parts of the islands the natives were still either ferocious enemies or at best half-tamed; and his work consisted in making contact with them and very gradually bringing them to recognize the value of British rule.
But colonization proved ruinous for the tribes of the Andamans, including the Bo, with large numbers decimated by measles and syphilis brought to the islands by foreigners. Many of those who were left gravitated to alcohol, another import to the islands, as a way of seeking solace.

“When people are dispossessed from their land and their way of life, they often turn to alcohol,” Grig said. “It’s not surprising, and it was very much true in the case of the Bo.”

In 1970 the Indian government began relocating the Bo to a settlement of concrete row houses on Strait Island. Boa Sr was moved in 1978, and Abbi said she often said that she missed her old life in the jungle.

“A language contains the memories and experiences, everything that explains and encapsulates a way of life,” Grig said.

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