Due to the huge industrial and technological advancements over the past few centuries, we can definitely say that the world we live in today is modern in every sense of the word. Even though our civilization might be making rapid advancements in technology, there are people in the world who continue to live in tribes for which time stands still. Usually located in remote and isolated parts of the world, the tribal people are particularly interesting because they have managed to preserve their indigenous languages, culture, practices, and traditions.
You have probably heard of the Aborigines in Australia, and the many native American tribes located throughout North America, but it is time to expand your knowledge even further with the list we’ve compiled of the world’s most interesting indigenous people!
Himba – Namibia and Angola
With an estimated population of about 50,000 people, this semi-nomadic and pastoral tribe is notorious for covering their bodies with otjize paste which gives their skin distinct orange and red color. One reason for doing this is purely cosmetic. They use the paste to cleanse their skin and protect it from water scarcity and mosquito bites. The other reason is etched in their beliefs that red symbolizes the rich color of the earth and blood and is essence to life. Apart from the interesting practices and hairstyles, what makes these people truly impressive is that they’ve managed to preserve the same way of life since the 16th century in extremely harsh weather conditions.
Kazakh – Mongolia
Photographer Jimmy Nelson travels the world and captures perfectly the lifestyles of numerous indigenous tribes, and the above picture is a perfect example of it. The Kazakh semi-nomadic tribes, predominantly located in northern parts of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China, Russia and Mongolia) are known for their ancient arts, traditions, and skills. The most notable things about their culture is that they are using golden eagles for hunting, and horses for pretty much everything else from riding and racing to agriculture. They are also known to believe in some pretty wacky things such as pre-Islamic cults of the sky and supernatural forces.
Samburu – Kenya
This nomadic pastoral tribe mainly relies on keeping and breeding cattle, speaks a Nilo-Saharan language and believes God (Nkai) provides all protection in the world from the hazards of their existence. They are most famous for their elaborate and decorative clothing which involves a lot of beads, like a lot. Both men and women are especially passionate about them and they all wear some sorts of beaded bracelets. However, only women wear huge collars which speak about numerous things such as their marital status, health and even number of children. While clothing may be the most interesting thing about this tribe, it is certainly not the most bizarre one. That spot is reserved for their rich-in-protein diet which consists of drinking cow blood. Yup, ew.
Huli – Papua New Guinea
Also known as Haroli, these indigenous people from Papua New Guinea have lived in their current area for about 1,000 years. They are most known for one particular clan called Huli Wigmen located in the Hela Province. The talented individuals of this clan are particularly skilled in making beautiful and elaborate wigs out of parrot feathers and their own locks. The whole process of creating the ceremonial wigs takes roughly 18 months and symbolizes the process of a boy growing into a man.
Asaro – Papua New Guinea
Also known as the Asaro Mudmen, this tribe has lived in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, completely isolated from the rest of the world for thousands of years. They are notorious for wearing creepy mud masks which are supposed to scare their enemies away. No one knows how this came about, but a legend says that it was merely accidental. Long time ago, this particular tribe was forced to flee into the Asaro River which has very muddy banks. When they tried to escape from their enemies the following morning, they were all covered in grayish mud which gave them a ghost-like appearance. This scared the said enemies, so they decided to make masks in other to protect themselves from similar future encounters.
Yali – Papua Indonesia
This tribe, also known as “Lords of the Earth” inhabits the Jayawijaya Mountain range of Papua, Indonesia. The people have their own culture, traditions and language which are different than other tribes in the Papuan region, but they also have certain similarities such as practicing polygamy and conducting gift rituals. Once upon a time, the people of this tribe, although a pygmy (dwarf) nation, were considered to be the most dreaded cannibals in the region.
Vanuatu – Tanna Island, Vanuatu
Vanuatu consists of 85 islands which have been populated since 500 BC by indigenous people with their own traditions, practices, and language. Many of the tribes revolve around one specific peaceful and cheerful activity – dancing. In fact, they have specific dancing grounds and well traditional festivals, one of which is Toka on Tanna Island. They believe that ceremonies can help them acquire wealth, and are a representation of friendship and affinity between the different clans.
Gaucho – Argentina and Uruguay
Gauchos are integral part of Argentina’s culture, folklore and literature, and almost synonymous to the cowboys from the Wild West. They inhabited the prairies as early as the 1700s and were extremely popular throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Their name stands for “free spirit” which is exactly what these people were, roaming around with their knives and horses, hunting the Cimarron cattle. Although they still exist today, the gauchos are threatened by the commercial cattle trade.
Lhoba – Mustang, Nepal
Although the Lhoba people affiliate their religion, culture and history with Tibet, their territory is politically part of Nepal. The former kingdom of Lo is now slowly fading away and endangering the Tibetan culture. Situated in Mustang, they did not allow any outsiders to enter up until 1991. Photographer Jimmy Nelson had the privilege to spend time with this disappearing tribe and capture them as they go about their days. He came to a conclusion that their beliefs are related to Buddhism and very outdated. Apparently, the Lhoba people think that the world is flat and highly rely on prayers and religious festivals.
Nenets – Russia
This indigenous tribe also known as Samoyeds is made up about 45,000 reindeer herders. They have been migrating across the Yamal peninsula in extremely harsh weather conditions of minus 50°C in winter to 35°C in summer for over a millennium. Their migration is over 1000 km long and involves crossing many kilometers of frozen rivers. In recent years their environment has been challenged due to industrialization, colonization, and climate change. Due to the gas and oil industry, there are less and less reindeer pastures every year, and from the late Stalin period all Nenets children have to enroll in boarding schools.
Rabari – India
The Rabari tribespeople have been known to roam the plains and desserts of Western India for over a thousand years. Due to their Persian physiognomy, it is believed that these indigenous people migrated to India from the Iranian Plateau a long time ago. The women of the tribe spend a lot of time on the embroidery craft which is visible through their intricate textile designs. Women are also responsible for managing all of the money while the men handle the herds which are their main source of income through the leather, wool, and milk.
Ladakhi – Jammu and Kashmir (India)
Located in Ladakh, the most sparsely populated region in Jammy and Kashmir, these indigenous people live in the harsh weather conditions of the cold Northern Indian desert. Their rich culture, folklore and history date back to the pre-Buddhist era and are closely related to Tibet. Due to the weather conditions, the Ladakhi people can only work during the 4-month farming seasons, and spend the rest of the 8 months organizing a lot of festivals and celebrations, involving complex religious chanting, masks, and dresses.