The Almost Forgotten Tribes Of The World
The world is full of indigenous people many of us have no idea existed. Far from modern societies, and even further from any kind of modern technology, these tribes live a life almost identical to their ancestors' thousands of years ago. Their customs and lifestyles couldn't be more different from ours! These are some of the almost forgotten tribes of our world!
The Asaro Mudmen, Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is a haven for many various indigenous tribes who have no contact with the outside world, and the Asaro Mudmen are one of them. The tribe is known for its mud masks.
They were developed as a protective shield against a dangerous enemy the tribe was fighting. The mud masks scared the attackers, and the Asaro men were free from harm once again.
The Sentinelese People, India
The Sentinelese people are a controversial tribe. They are one of the most secluded tribes on our planet, living on one of the Andaman’s Islands in India and they have fiercely resisted any contact from the outside world.
The Indian government gave the Sentinelese people sovereignty, allowing them to deal with trespassers onto their land however they see fit. Unwanted visitors have often been attacked by arrows and spears.
The Kalam People, Papua New Guinea
The Kalam people are distinguished warriors and experienced hunters, well in sync with the environment they inhabit. The men wear elaborate wigs and face frightening face masks when they go to battle.
All the while, the women stay close to home and farm the land using a sophisticated irrigation system and beautifully structured gardens. Everyone in the community has a role to play!
The Kawahiva Tribe, Brazil
The Kawahiva are also called the ‘short people’ or the ‘redhead people’. They lead a nomadic lifestyle which they were likely forced into due to the rapid and aggressive deforestation in Brazil.
The tribe hunts, gathers, and even collects honey in a traditional way by building complex ladders to climb up the trees. Little to no contact has been made with the Kawahiva tribe and only a few dozens of them are believed to be left alive today.
The Piaroa People, Venezuela
One of the indigenous people of the Amazon- the Piaroa tribe, first came into contact with white foreign men in the 1940s, and this brought massive change to their society. They are slowly adapting to a new way of life.
The Piaroa people have still managed to keep a part of their customs alive, however. Surviving mainly by fishing and gathering fruits, the Piaroa people are one of the examples of drastic changes in the Amazon.
The Tarahumara Tribe, Mexico
The Tarahumara people are well known for their athletic abilities. They are some of the best marathon runners in the whole world, even if they run in sandals! They live in caves, into which they retreated after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th Century.
They formed an impressive network of trails between the caves of the various families. Trail running was the only way to deliver messages to each other, and it became a defining feature of the tribe.
The Hadza Tribe, Tanzania
Like many other indigenous tribes, the Hadza tribe are hunter-gatherers. The Hadza live a life without clocks or calendars, and they ignore the passage of time. Strangely, the Hadza people have no words for numbers past four.
They do not need to keep track of anything in their lives. They live the same way their ancestors did over 10,000 years ago! A life without unnecessary stressors, watches and appointments is the life of the Hadza.
The Nenets, Arctic Russia
In the sub-zero temperatures of Arctic Russia, the Nenets survive and thrive. They are a reindeer-herding tribe and a tribe that has unbelievable survival skills, allowing them to inhabit such barren lands.
The Nenets use reindeer for food, clothing, or transportation, as they need to migrate hundreds of miles across the tundra year after year. They are deeply interconnected with their environment and the animals in it.
The Dongria Kondh Tribe, India
The Dongria Kondh tribe leads an agricultural lifestyle very much in tune with nature. They live in the forests of southwestern Odisha in India, and their numbers reach up to 8,000.
The Dongria people inhabit around 100 small mountainous villages that have recently been threatened by mining plans of big corporations. Like many other indigenous tribes, they are in danger of extinction.
The Soliga Tribe, India
The Soliga tribe lives in Karnataka in India and has always been dependent on the forest. They have an intimate knowledge of all the plants in their surrounding nature and are great medicine people because of it.
The tribe survives on hunting and needs the lush forests around them to thrive in order to provide enough sustenance. Being one of the last original medicine people of the region, they are desperate to keep their traditions alive!
The Orang Rimba Tribe, Indonesia
One of the indigenous peoples of the rainforest in Sumatra- the Orang Rimba, live a nomadic life of hunting and gathering, in full respect of nature. Their numbers are estimated to be around 200,000, but their population growth is plummeting each year.
They have an animistic religion, believing in the holy spirit of their ancestors, but their beliefs and existence are threatened by the numerous oil plantations which are destroying their habitat.
The Chenchu People, India
The Chenchu people are nomadic, moving around as much as needed for their survival. They migrate in order to find better feeding grounds, and they are heavily reliant on what nature provides. The Chenchu tribe hunts with spears and arrows to this day.
They are expert honey collectors and bamboo cutters. When they do cultivate some crops, it is only some tobacco, corn, and millet. Living a life very similar to their ancestors, the Chenchu people thrive.
The Emberá Tribe, Colombia
The Emberá tribe of Colombia is made up of three different groups based on where they live. The Emberá people are people of the mountain, and they have a strong relationship with the nature around them.
The earth is at the basis of their survival, and all land is common. The concept of property is unknown, and all natural resources are shared. The tribe works together as a collective to survive.
The Bayaka Tribe, Congo
The Bayaka people form extremely strong bonds across families, and this allows them to share knowledge over generations. The tribe lives in family multi-clans, and their existence is highly cooperative.
The Bayakas are hunter-gatherers and rely on each other to support the whole tribe with enough food. Their community connections are what keeps the Bayakas strong and thriving, even in difficult times.
The Wodaabe People, Niger
The Wodaabe people are nomadic hunter-gatherers, and they migrate vast distances all the way from southern Niger, through Cameroon, to the western part of the Central African Republic.
Their numbers are estimated to be around 100,000, and the tribe is known for the beauty of its people, as well as for its elaborate ceremonies. The Wodaabe paint their faces and wear elaborate headgear.
The Shipibo People, Peru
The Shipibo people have inhabited the Ucayali region of the Amazon River for over 2,000 years, and have been one of the best nature caretakers the land can hope for. They have intimate knowledge about each corner of the rainforest.
The Shipibo people strive to keep the wisdom of the plants alive from generation to generation.They live in one of the most biodiverse regions in South America, and they care for it accordingly.
The Banna Tribe, Ethiopia
The Omo Valley in Ethiopia is home to the indigenous Banna tribe. Their people are estimated to be 45,000 in number and are one of the many tribes inhabiting the region.
They are known for painting themselves intricately with white, yellow, red, and black paint in preparation for ceremonies. One of the most important rituals for them is the time the daughter reaches fertility and is married off.
The Huli Wigmen, Papua New Guinea
One of the many Papua New Guinea indigenous inhabitants- the Huli Wigmen, got their name for a reason! They wear decorative woven wigs and elaborate headdresses with bright feathers in them!
The headdresses are used during celebrations and festivals and are made by the people who attend wig schools in the community. There are about 400,000 Huli Wigmen still continuing the tradition to this day!
The Himba People, Namibia
The dry deserts of Namibia can be unforgiving, but even there, people thrive. The Himba tribe are extremely adapted to the harsh conditions they live in, and they have a few tricks that help them adjust!
They cover their bodies with the so-called otjize- a mixture of ochre and fat, meant to protect their skin from the scorching sun. The Himba women are also known for braiding their hair with the mixture, achieving stunning effects!
The Ladakhi Tribe, Kashmir
The Ladakhi people get their name from the word Ladakh which stands for ‘the land of the passes’. The Ladakhi live in a mountainous region in Kashmir, which is as beautiful as it is harsh.
The Ladakhi are farmers, working hard all summer to stock up for the unforbidding winter months. The wintertime for the Ladakhi people is spent in celebration of life and in the enjoyment of the fruits of their hard work!
The Karo Tribe, Ethiopia
The Karo tribe is a small group of around 1,000-3,000 farmers. The community lives in the fertile Omo valley, which allows them to grow enough crops and food to feed themselves all year round.
The Karo families have two houses each, one acting as their living quarters, and the other, as their activities one. They also excel in body painting and paint their bodies beautifully for all celebrations.
The Hmong Women, Vietnam And China
The Hmong women are as hardworking as one can get! They have a lot of responsibility in the family, even though it is still the man in the house who makes all the final decisions.
Having exceptional household skills is expected from all girls in the tribe, and training begins as early as eight years old. Taking care of the harvest is one of the main jobs of women.
The Tsaatan Tribe, Mongolia
Herding reindeer has become an almost forgotten art, and the Tsaatan tribe in Mongolia are among the last people who still perform it. The name Tsaatan literally translates to ‘reindeer people’!
The tribe is nomadic and migrates between 5-10 times a year, all within the subarctic region. Reindeer are vitally important for their survival, as the animals provide everything for the community.
The Saan People, Botswana
The Saan people, otherwise known as the Bushmen, are made up of multiple indigenous South African peoples. They were all hunter-gatherers, and remain so until this day.
The Saan has a sad story to tell. In the 1950s, they were evicted from their own land and forced to take up farming instead of the now prohibited hunting. This caused the tribe to reach a point of near extinction.
The Goroka Tribe, Papua New Guinea
The Goroka is another tribe that uses elaborate make-up as a scare tactic in battle. As indigenous wars are common in the area, the Goroka developed their own way of frightening the rival.
The land of the Goroka is host to the Goroka Show- an annual three-day event serving as a tribal gathering. Over 100 tribes from the whole region come to share music and dance, and the show has recently become quite the tourist attraction too.
The Māori, New Zealand
The Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand, and their origins can be traced all the way back to ancient Polynesia. Their culture developed distanced from any sort of influence, which gave it its peculiarity and beauty.
The Māori tribal tattoos are especially well known all around the world, as is their famous ‘Haka’ dance, often performed as festivals, ceremonies, or more increasingly- tourist shows.
The Yali People, Indonesia
The Yali people are extremely isolated from other tribes and cultures and their environment has a lot to do with that. Their villages are solely accessible by hiking for hours in difficult terrain!
Their first contact with the outside world came in the 1960s, although the Yali are still largely untouched by anything foreign. Indonesia has granted them sovereignty in some sense, even though their land falls under the official control of the country.
The Mustangs, Nepal
The Mustangs are a group of people inhabiting the harsh Nepalese lands, far from the influences of foreign tribes or cultures. They did not allow any outsiders into their community until 1991!
As very religious people, the Mustangs practice an early Buddhist tradition, and their beliefs have remained unchanged for years. They take their traditions and beliefs seriously and refuse any input from foreign cultures.
The Drokpa People, India And Pakistan
There are only about 2,500 Drokpa people left in the world and all of them can be found on the land of India and Pakistan. They are a very distinctive ethnic group in the region, and they have some strange customs to prove it!
The Drokpa people have been known to practice public kissing, a behavior not otherwise accepted in the region. Their unique features also distinguish them from the other inhabitants of the land. They are tall, with light-colored eyes, and full lips.
The Chukchi People, Russia
Living on the Chukchi Peninsula in the Russian Federation, the Chukchi people live a life that has been unchanged by the decades. They are highly traditional and largely unaccepting of outsiders.
They are tough people, accustomed to extreme temperatures and unforbidding lands covered with ice and snow. The Chukchi are survivors, well-versed in the difficulties of life in sub-zero environments.
The Surma People, Ethiopia
The Omo Valley in Ethiopia is home to many diverse ethnic groups and the Surma people are one of them. The Surma is actually made up of the Suri and Mursi tribe and is a combination of the two cultures.
Modification of bodies is common among the Surma, and lip stretching with a plate is one of the most recognizable ways to do so. Lip stretching is regarded as beautiful among the women of the Surma tribe, and the size of the lip even influences the woman’s dowry!
The Yao People, Malawi
The Yao people spread throughout three countries, but they are all connected by their language, customs, and ethnicity. Their name translates to ‘hill people’ and their societies put a strong emphasis on the female.
The Yao are excellent medicine people, specializing in local medicinal herbs. Their healers have extensive knowledge about the indigenous plants and their properties, and they are able to treat even serious conditions.
The Kazakhs, Mongolia
The Kazakhs are semi-nomadic people who inhabit the region of Western Mongolia and have done so since the 19th Century. They travel around the valleys and the mountains in search of new food and shelter.
The Kazakhs are well-known for their unique hunting technique which involves training eagles. This tradition has been carefully kept alive by the Kazakh people for centuries.
The Gauchos, South America
The Gauchos are the cowboys of South America! They can be found in the prairies of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, hunting for wild cattle on horseback.
Considered to be the last free spirits of the region, the Gauchos roam free wherever the wind takes them. They have retained their nomadic life for years, refusing to settle down and take up farming instead.
The Makah Tribe, USA
The indigenous Makah people inhabit the area around Neah Bay in Washington, where they live in a small fishing village. They are best known for their whaling aboriginal practices.
The Makah uses a difficult whaling technique which is extremely hard to master. The men hunt from canoes made from cedar wood, each holding up to nine people at once.
The Bajau People, Malaysia
The Bajau people of Malaysia are expert divers, to say the least. They can hold their breath for more than 3 minutes, and they are able to free-dive to a depth of over 20 yards.
The Bajau spend the majority of their time underwater, for which they are often compared to sea-otters and other water-loving creatures. The tribe has no sense of time and they shun any clocks, watches, or calendars.
The Jumma People, Bangladesh
The Jumma people are a collection of various tribes all collectively known under one name. There are around ten indigenous languages spoken in the Jumma community, and multiple religions are practiced.
The Jumma people are skilled farmers, rotating their crops and taking great care of the soil they depend on. They are nomadic people, moving around in search of better and more fertile soil.
The Vanuatu People, Vanuatu Islands
There are 85 Vanuatu Islands and they have been settled for centuries. The people inhabiting them arrived on the islands 3,000 years ago from Taiwan and the Northern Philippines.
The Vanuatu perform elaborate ceremonies of dance which they call ‘Nasara’, believed to bring wealth and prosperity to the community. The tribe has fiercely protected its heritage throughout the years.
The Maasai Tribe, Kenya
The Maasai are one of the most well-known tribes in our world. They inhabit Kenya, but unlike many other of the country’s tribes, they live a semi-nomadic and pastoral lifestyle, which has remained unchanged for centuries.
The Maasai rely heavily on the natural cycles of rain and drought and are intertwined with nature and its wildlife to a high degree.
The Chambri People, Papua New Guinea
In Papua New Guinea, the majority of inhabitants live in rural villages, out of touch with modern society. The Chambri people are one of the tribes which have managed to remain untouched by modernity.
In the Chambri tribe, the women are the main providers of the family, and their society is highly egalitarian. The true power in the Chambri tribe belongs to the spirit of the crocodile!
The Yanomamis, Venezuela
The Yanomami tribe has inhabited the lush rainforest in Venezuela for thousands of years. There are about 40,000 Yanomamis left alive in their natural habitat and they, just as many other tribes, are under threat.
They face danger from expansive mining companies who come to claim their land and they are in dire need of medical care due to recent outbreaks of various diseases.
The Fleicheros, Brazil
The Fleicheros community is formed by highly endangered people living along the Jandiatuba River in western Brazil. Almost no contact has been made with the tribe, but since a gold mine has been discovered on their territory, people tried to rush in.
The Fleicheros are known for their poisonous darts which they will throw at any trespasser. The tribe is very small, with only around 30 members still alive in the jungle today.
The Rabari People, India
The gender roles in the tribe are strictly divided, with the Rabari men spending most of their time herding animals, and the women creating elaborate embroidery pieces.
The Rabari women have a lot of power in the tribal community, as they are responsible for the management of the villages, as well as all the financial matters.
The Hamar Tribe, Ethiopia
The Hamar people are hunters and gatherers living in the Omo Valley in Ethiopia. They have great relationships with their neighbors and often engage in trading goods such as beads, cattle, clothes, or food.
The religious practices of the Hamar tribe are a mix of Evangelism and Islam, as well as traditional African Animism. They are a melting pot of influences.
The Moken Tribe, Burma
The Moken tribe are people of the water! They spend most of their lives on traditional wooden boats, sailing between the 800 islands making up the Mergui Archipelago around Burma and Thailand.
They are masterful fishermen, relying on spears and nets to get their food. They also live on their boats, which often have a kitchen, a living room, and multiple bedrooms.
The Palawano People, Philippines
The Philippines have many indigenous tribes, many of which inhabit the Palawan province. One of these tribes is the Palawan tribe, whose culture can be traced back to 50,000 years!
The Palawano people are hunters and gatherers, preferring to live in dense forests where no one can access them. The tribe has recently made a shift towards agriculture, influenced by the outside world.
The Awá Tribe, Brazil
The Awá tribe is one of the most endangered tribes on the whole planet! There are less than 600 members alive in the Amazon forest today, and their numbers are constantly shrinking.
The tribe is severely threatened by aggressive logging and wildfires caused by ranchers clearing out large chunks of the jungle. Their habitat is being destroyed, and the Awá have nowhere to turn to.
The Mashco Piro People, Peru
The Mashco Piro live in the jungle in Peru, and they are one of the many still largely uncontacted tribes of the area. Like many other indigenous communities, they are under threat.
The tribe hunts and gathers food, but has recently been struggling to get enough to eat as the forests around them are being destroyed. There are less than 800 members alive.
The Southern Ndebele Tribe, South Africa
The Southern Ndebele have a population of over a million, and they are dispersed throughout the north-eastern provinces of South Africa. They are believed to be the cousins of the Zulu tribe.
Traditionally, the Southern Ndebele treats illness as something caused by a curse or a bad spell. A healer has to be called in for every case, prepared to battle the evil spirits with herbs and ceremonies.
The Zapotecs, Mexico
The Zapotec people are known as the ‘Cloud people’. This is because they inhabit the highlands of the valley of Oaxaca, a region quite difficult to reach.
The Zapotecs were one of the main civilizations of the region, with a rich culture, customs, and a large population. Today, less than a million people belong to the tribe.
The Langde Miao Tribe, China
The Langde Miao is probably best known for its elaborate and stunning silver jewelry which they adorn themselves with. The silver is more than just a display of wealth, however!
Wearing silver in the tribe is said to offer protection against evil spirits, so the women wear crowns, horns, earrings, and many other silver accessories to stay safe and protected.
The Meghwal People, India
The Meghwal people mainly live in northwestern India, although they also have a small population in neighboring Pakistan. Their traditional craft is weaving, and they are well-known for their mastery of it.
The community resides in mud and brick hamlets which are painted on the outside with colorful and geometric designs and adorned with mirror displays.
The Zulu, South Africa
The Zulu are one of the most well-known tribes around the world. They number between 10-13 million and are the largest ethnic group in South Africa. The Zulu even built an empire in the 19th Century!
Because of their numbers and power, the Zulu were able to expand their territories, and in doing so, they developed a fearsome reputation of dedicated warriors.
The Dogon, Mali
The Dogon people of Mali are descendants of the Ancient Egyptians! Just like their ancestors, they have extensive knowledge of astronomy, and they believe that their gods ascended from the stars.
Their rituals are based around their reverence of the nighttime sky, and they have developed elaborate dances, art, architecture, and sculptures around it. Around 800,000 Dogon people are still alive today.
The Tuaregs, Sahara Desert
The Tuaregs are a tribe of Barber ethnicity who live in the vast Sahara Desert. They are traditionally nomadic, moving around the hot sand dunes on camelback, seeking food and water in oases.
The Touareg once controlled the caravan trade routes of the region and they held a lot of power. Today, there are more than a million of their tribe left.
Yang Shuo Cormorants, China
The Yang Shuo Cormorant men are a tourist attraction today, but they carry with them a long lineage of traditional fishing techniques. Accompanied by trained cormorant birds, these fishermen emerge at dusk to perform a truly impressive act of fishing.
The cormorants dive underwater and stay there for a considerably long time, catching all the fish they can. The fishermen reward their birds as the animals are still regarded as an irreplaceable asset to the families of the region.
The Arhuaco People, Colombia
The Arhuaco people inhabit the diverse land of Sierra Nevada in Colombia, living in tune with the surrounding nature. The Arhuaco are known for growing their own coffee and sugar and they often keep a few small animals such as goats or chickens too.
The Arhuaco tribe has a custom where if a man wants to marry, he must first work for his future father-in-law for at least one year without receiving any pay.
The Penan Tribe, Brunei
The Penan people number around 10,000 today and are a nomadic group who live in the dense rainforest of Brunei. Their ancestors used to be heavily dependent on the jungle, hunting and gathering their food, and things remain the same even now.
The only difference is that the Penan people have settled into a village lifestyle, although they still use their ancient technique of fishing, which involves using plant poison.
The Matsés Tribe, Brazil
The Matsés tribe is recognizable for one very peculiar feature- their whiskers. Just like their face tattoos, the whiskers are an important part of their cultural identity.
There are only about 2,200 Matsés living today in the Yavarí Valley of Peru and Brazil. The first contact was made with them in 1969, after which the tribe began accepting Christianity.
The Aymara People, Bolivia
One of the indigenous people of Bolivia, the Aymara people live high up in the Andes mountains. With a number of 2 million, the Aymara are the most populous ethnic group on the whole South American continent.
They are known for eating chuño, which are potatoes dried during the night. Their diet is a reflection of the harsh conditions of the mountainous region.
The Pirahã People, Brazil
The Amazon rainforest is home to the Pirahã people who survive here thanks to hunting and gathering. The tribe is as endangered as it gets, with only about 800 individuals still alive.
The communication method of the Pirahãs is fascinating. They can turn their language into a collection of whistles, a practice very helpful deep in the jungle and during hunts.
The Rarámuri People, Mexico
The Rarámuri tribe are renowned for their running talents. Long-distance is their expertise and they know how to navigate difficult terrains for hours without a problem.
The tribe leads a nomadic lifestyle, moving around to find better pastures for their goats and cattle and to plant corn and beans. The Rarámuri still settle in caves for shelter, just like their ancestors did.
The Guaraní People, Argentina
The Guaraní speak a peculiar language which has been the point of interest for many linguists. Speaking it used to be a sign of lower-class, but times have since changed, and today, Guaraní is appreciated as a cultural heritage.
The Guaraní influenced the continent, and the world, in a significant way by introducing it to yerba mate. The traditional drink is now a popular addition to the daily life of millions in South America.
The Nukaks, Colombia
Hidden deep in the dense and lush jungle of Colombia are the Nukak people. The hunter-gatherer tribe is largely nomadic but dabbles in occasional planting of crops.
They were first contacted in 1981 and have since rapidly been losing land and experiencing a drastic decline in population. They still try to keep their traditions, such as dart hunting, alive.
Enawene Nawe Tribe, Brazil
The Enawene Nawe lead a settled life in Brazil, growing food, gathering it, and hunting their meat. They keep their customs and way of life sheltered from the outside world.
There are about 566 of them and their numbers keep slowly growing, despite the attacks on their land and threats to their existence stemming from dam building in their inhabited area.
The Bodi People, Ethiopia
Among the tribes inhabiting the lowlands of the Omo River are the Bodi people who today number around 10,000. The Bodi are largely pastoral and have been so for generations.
Cattle is vitally important to not only their survival but also their economic and social status. It is also used during the many religious ceremonies and marriage customs.
The indigenous tribes on our planet still live a life of deep connection with nature and with each other. Even though they lack modern technology and the comforts of advanced life, in many ways, their lives are richer and more in tune with their surroundings. There is a lot our society can learn from them!
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