Ancient tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
January 3, 2005 11:38 PM   Subscribe

The tribal people of the beautiful Andaman and Nicobar Islands include socially and genetically important ancient 'negrito' groups such as the Jarawa. Fortunately, it looks like many of their tiny communities have survived the earthquake and tsunami.
posted by iffley (13 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
[this is excellent]
posted by moonbird at 3:32 AM on January 4, 2005

A little gem of good news in the midst of the horror.
posted by Cancergiggles at 5:16 AM on January 4, 2005

The Sentinelese are the inhabitants of the North Sentinel Island situated in the West of the South Andaman covering an area of 60 sq. kms. They are probably the world’s only Paleolithic people surviving today without any contact with any other groups or community... The Sentinelese are very hostile and never leave their island; thus, very little is known about them. Their present number is estimated to be 250.

I was thinking the other day that many of us will live to see the day when every surviving lion or tiger or other large cat in the wild has a microchip, name, number and an adopting grade school. And yet there are still, here and there, isolated groups of hunting and gathering tribes. Fascinating.
posted by y2karl at 6:11 AM on January 4, 2005

This is why I come to metafilter. Sites beyond the news stories. Thanks jffley.
posted by zpousman at 6:34 AM on January 4, 2005

isolated groups of hunting and gathering tribes

Damn it sooo much resemble some company I worked for..and the CEO was Voodoo Taboo too.
posted by elpapacito at 7:26 AM on January 4, 2005

A magnificent post, iffley -- many thanks. I'd known of the existence and isolation of these tribes, but I now know much more. I highly recommend the "socially" and "Jarawa" links to anyone who doesn't want to visit all of them (but you'll be missing out); from the former:

The tribes of Andaman and Nicobar islands have a comprehensive and detailed knowledge about the seas of the islands. They also depend on the sea for their livelihood. Their navigational practices are quit interesting and intricate. Mostly the tribes are settled on the seashore. Their traditional knowledge about sea is unique and the seafaring activity of tribes is different from of the settlers. At present the Nicobarese, especially the people of Car Nicobar are actively involved in seafaring and fishing.

Goodenough (1987) has reported on the intricate navigational skills of Micronesians of Western Caribbean islands. Though it is an oral tradition, it contains massive amount of discrete information…which has to be committed to memory. It involves highly abstract thinking: the compass as a set of imaginary points at equal intervals around the horizon, named for the stars and abstracted from their motions, but not identical with them; the use of drags as imaginary divisions of one's course of travel; the use of imaginary places of references to calculate 'drags; and schematic mapping in the form of 'trigger fish'. This is as good a science as one expects.

posted by languagehat at 9:08 AM on January 4, 2005

Thank [insert choice of God/s here]. Thanks for the post.
posted by dabitch at 9:10 AM on January 4, 2005

Wow. Thank you for the update.

"Our helicopter pilot who flew over the island told me that he has seen several groups of Sentinelese on the beach and that when he dropped food packets they threw stones at the helicopter."

posted by Alison at 9:24 AM on January 4, 2005

I'd never heard about these tribes before, thanks iffley.
posted by Tarrama at 3:04 PM on January 4, 2005

I was on the Andamans a year ago and heard that a few Jarawas had actually begun using buses plying the Andaman Trunk Road, which passes next to their reserve. Unfortunately many fisherman were also offering us western travellers camping trips to some of the "prohibited" islands. I didn't go, but many others did.
posted by DelusionsofGrandeur at 3:07 PM on January 4, 2005

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but much of the news out of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands isn't good at all . . .

The islands' indigenous populations may have survived the tsunami, but the hundreds of thousands of poor Bengali and Tamil settlers are facing a serious crisis, exacerbated not only by the Indian government's refusal of international aid to the islands but also by the fact that it probably shouldn't have allowed settlers to move there in the first place.

By the sound of it, desperate settlers may wind up posing an ecological threat more devastating to the livelihood of these ancient tribes than any tsunami. The silver lining, in other words, seems to contain a few clouds of its own. Alas.
posted by gompa at 3:25 PM on January 4, 2005

Thanks for the interesting links iffley. Another group that managed to survive the tsunami in the Andaman Sea through the use of age-old sea wisdom are the Morgan Sea gypsies.
posted by Ashwagandha at 1:13 PM on January 6, 2005

Here is a little more on those Sea Gypsies - apparently they see well underwater.
posted by Ashwagandha at 2:51 PM on January 6, 2005

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