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Indigenous Tribes

There are five Primitive Tribal Groups who have been identified in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. They are

i) Great Andamanese of Strait Island
ii) Onges of Little Andaman
iii) Jarawas of South and Middle Andaman
iv) Sentinelese of Sentinel Islands
v) Shompens of Great Nicobar

(i) The Great Andamanese: - They are once the largest in population among the various tribes inhabiting the Andaman Islands. Their estimated population in 1789 was 10,000. By 1901, their number had decreased to 625 and by 1969 their number had decreased to 19 only. According to the Census of 1971, only 24 of them survived, but by 1999. their number has increased to 41. The Administration is doing its best to protect and preserve these tribes. These tribals have been rehabilitated in a small island named Strait Island. The Great Andamanese are foragers. Today, they eat rice, dal chapati and other modern food articles. They can cook food with the ingredients of spices. At times, they still go in for hunting and gathering Actually, their tradi tional food items are fish, dugong, turtle, turtle eggs, crabs, roots and tubers. They also eat pork, Andaman water monitor lizard, etc. As aquatic people, they relish octopus, molluses taken out from shell marine animals like turban shell, scorpion shell, sundial, helmet, trochus and screw shell besides various types of crabs and fish. Some of them cultivate vegetables. Of late, they have established poultry farms. They are exposed to highly communicable diseases besides unhealthy drinking habits which of course are acquired after contact with the monbund urban dominant and advanced communities.

 

\ (ii) ONGE: - Onges are one of the most primitive tribes in India. They belong to the Negrito racial stock and they have been relegated to the reserved pockets both at Dugong Creek and South Bay of Little Andaman Island. They are also diminishing in number. They live in a remote corner of the country in a small pocket. They are the semi-nomadic tribes and fully dependent on the food provided by nature. They have now experienced the impact of outsiders. At the same time efforts at befriending them have proved to be successful. They have been provided with pucca hut type houses, food, clothes, medicines, etc by the Administration. They eat turtle, fish, roots and jack frutis and etc. They have developed artistry and craft. The Onges can make canoes. A primary school has been functioning at the Dugong Creek settlement of Onges. This tribe has become laid back and dependent in their ways. Also their rate of reproduction has become very low.

 

\ (iii) JARAWAS: - They are now friendly and voluntary seek medical assistance. They do not have good canoes but can make rafts which they build to cross the streams. The year 1974 was a land mark in the history of Jarawas. Dropping of gifts was done in February and March 1974. After establishing this friendly mission with the Jarawas, the contact party of the Administration quite often met the Jarawas and gave them gift items like banana, coconut and other fruits. With the passage of time, the behavioral pattern of Jarawas have changed. Till the beginning of 1998, they remained hostile, but now they are coming out of the jungle quite often and are becoming friendlier. For nearly a year there is no incidence of killing of villagers by the Jarawas. On the other hand, the Jarawas are coming out from their habitat to mix with the local people. After giving them gift items like bananas, coconuts, etc,. they are being sent out to live in their own natural habitat, with view not to force them to have a taste of the civilized world. Isolated so long, the Jarawas otherwise appear to be healthy, with smooth skin, deep curly hair, long and sturdy hands and legs and sturdy bones. They are physically fit for hunting, fishing. Unlike, other tribes mention earlier, the Jarawas are not welfare dependent people. As nomadic tribes subsisting on hunting, fishing and gathering activities, their traditional food articles consist of boar (wild boar), turtles and their eggs, crabs and other shore animals, etc. wild pig fruits and honey.

 

\(iv) SENTENELESE: - The Sentinelese are the inhabitants of North Sentinel Island. The area is about 60 Sq. Kilometers. They are probably the world’s only Paleolithic people surviving today without contact with any other group or community. They are considered as an off-shoot to the Onge Jarawa tribes which have acquired a different identity due to their habitation in an isolated and have lost contact with the main tribes. The Sentinelese are very hostile and never leave their Island. Very little is known about these hostile tribes.

 

\ (v) SHOMPENS : - The habitation of Shompens is the Great Nicobar which is the largest among the Nicobar group of Islands. Like the Nicobarese, they belong to the Mongoloid race. The Shompens have two divisions, the smaller division being known as Mawa Shompens. They inhabit areas very close to the coastal region along the river valleys. They are very shy. They are quite intimate with the Nicobarese and of the major group of Shompens, the hostile Shompens are living in Alexendra and Galathia river areas and also on the east coast of the area in the interior of the Island. In the past, frequent attacks are believed to have been made on the Mawa Shompens by the hostile Shompens. But now, such hostility has been stopped. It is probably because they have been largely reduced in number due to various diseases. The Mawa Shompens are the victims of diseases and physically very weak. With the establishment of the settlement at Campbell Bay in Great Nicobar, Shompens have been visiting the settlers and they are gradually shaking off their shyness and indifferent attitude towards the civilised people.

 

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