John Allen Chau, a nonprofit director and avid explorer who lived in Vancouver, Wash., was fatally shot with a bow and arrow this month on the shore of a remote island off the coast of Myanmar.
The people who inhabit North Sentinel Island—the Sentinelese—are one of the last remaining groups to reject contact from the outside world.
Despite knowing the Sentinelese did not welcome outsiders, the 27-year-old Chau paid local fishermen to take him to the island, between Myanmar and India in the Bay of Bengal.
As Chau approached the island, the islanders shot arrows at him, according to the New York Times. Chau made attempts to reach the island over the next two days. But on Nov. 17, fishermen saw Sentinelese tribesmen with Chau's body.
Chau's death struck a nerve online, where social media users described him as a "martyr" or alternatively as a "colonizer" selfishly invading a new land. After his death was covered by major news outlets, strangers left comments on his Instagram and on memorial posts from his friends, condemning Chau's attempts to spread Christianity to an isolated group that asked only for privacy.
His friends were appalled by the response.
"I can't believe that the world we live in is a world where a man dies trying to tell people about Jesus, and then people go leave hate comments on his Instagram. You should all be ashamed of yourselves," wrote a friend of Chau in an Instagram post.
Chau's body is still on the island, according to Indian authorities. Indian law protects the Sentinelese from outside contact and has made it difficult to prosecute crimes committed on the island.
"The British colonial occupation of the Andaman Islands decimated the tribes living there, wiping out thousands of tribespeople, and only a fraction of the original population now survive. So the Sentinelese fear of outsiders is very understandable," Stephen Corry, the director of tribal protection organization Survival International, said in a statement from the group.
All seven people who helped Chau get to the island were charged with breaking laws that protect tribes in India and contributing to Chau's death, according to the New York Times.
In a Instagram post on Chau's account, his family asked for the release of those involved. "He ventured out on his own free will and his local contacts need not be persecuted for his own actions," they wrote.
Chau grew up in Alabama and graduated from Oklahoma's Oral Roberts University in 2014. He worked in Portland as the development director of a nonprofit that taught soccer to refugee children, according to the organization's website. Chau had travelled to Israel with Covenant Journey, a program that sends college students on tours of Israel to "discover and affirm their Christian faith and identity."
"Ever since high school, John wanted to go to North Sentinel to share Jesus with this indigenous people," Mat Staver, founder of Covenant Journey, said in a post mourning Chau's death.
Chau "knew the dangers associated with telling people about God, yet he went into it with faith anyways. John spoke to me before he went on his missions trip, and he was so excited to spread the word of God," Golden wrote.
In a blog post when he was 23, Chau wrote of his love for hiking and travelling. Of his travelling to-do list, "going back to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India is on the top," Chau said. "There's so much to see and do there!"