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Exotic Tribes
Be a responsible traveller. Show tribal people respect and meet them on their premises. Visiting people with a different lifestyle and culture could sometimes be a very rewarding adventure, but be aware of that many tribal communities are extremely vulnerable to outside influences. All tribal people need to be protected from tourists in order to preserve their unique lifestyle and cultures. Travellers should understand that some tribes would like to live undisturbed, and that visit would be an intrusion.

An ancient tribe emerged from the rainforest in India

2003-12-18
The woman came out from the forest at the side of the road. She was stark naked, apart from a thong of braided red around her loins. She waved to stop the bus. As it slowed the passengers could see that delicately drawn patterns in white clay adorned her face and body.
This was referred directly from renowned newspaper The Independent in Great Britain, 4 December 2003. As the story is told further, the passengers in the bus were fascinated, but behaved carefully. For the first time, they have started to emerge from their forests.

Nobody was quite sure what the woman wanted. No one among the Indian community speaks her language. And only one or two Jarawa speak Hindi. But she held out her hands as if requesting something (reported by The Independent - newspaper - by Paul Vallely, 4 December 2003).

Origin For tens of thousands of years the Jarawa people have lived in isolation in the rainforest of the Andaman Islands, remote in the Indian Ocean. They are known as a hostile tribe doing anything to keep intruders away. The Jarawas are ethnically distinct from the Indians who run their island. Anthropologists suggest they are descended from the first humans to come out of Africa - DNA tests suggest their closest relatives may be the Bushmen of the Kalahari.

It's assumed that they have lived in the Andamans for as long as 60,000 years. Throughout that time these nomadic hunter-gatherers have survived in bands of 40 to 50, hunting pig and monitor lizard, fishing with arrows, and gathering seeds, berries and honey. They use the plants of the islands to make bows, spears, ropes, huts, ornaments and even bee-repellent.

Told by the Independent, it's only in the past 150 years that the islands have been settled, first by the British, who set up a penal colony, and then by the Indians. Slowly the settlers have cut down the forest. The Indian government set aside an area of rainforest for the Jarawa but it saw them as "primitive". Its officials took gifts of food and cloth to the edge of the forest: the Jarawa accepted them, but mocked the officials by urinating on their feet and squirting breast milk at them.

Under threat More recently the authorities built a trunk road through the reserve. The tribal people have hided deeper into the forest, and their numbers have been reduced from 8,000 before colonisation to fewer than 800. But five years ago, they stepped out of the jungle because of disturbing. A reason for that could be that settlers have been poaching too much of the reserve's game. Other reason could be that loggers have been cutting a wide area, which was important for their subsistence.

Probably that was the reason why a young tribesman, called Enmei, was found in 1996, unable to move, and with a broken leg. He was taken to a hospital for treatment for five months. During his stay here, he learnt Hindi and returned to his tribe telling that the settlers were friendly. Today this native people are constantly under threat of diseases. In 1999 a measles and pneumonia epidemic affected up to half of the native population and killed 10 per cent.

Protection Some forces in the region want to change the Indians lifestyle. In accordance to the Independent (newspaper), Survival International, one of the three charities in this year's Independent Christmas Appeal, helps the Jarawa to bring their case to the Indian authorities. Based on experiences, the organisation will document that forced resettlement has a tragic outcome for other tribes in the Andaman Islands.

Several problems have occurred as ravaging of diseases, destroying self-sufficiency, undermining self-esteem and leaving them vulnerable to alcoholism, suicide and despair. After receiving around 200 letters a day from Survival supporters, the Indian government, gave up its plans to resettle the Jarawa for two years ago.

To preserve the Jarawas existence it's crucial that they can choose their own way to live. As far as they can live in unchanged environments, it's assumed that they will live happy in harmony with the nature. For them it's theirs paradise. Is the only way to save this tribe to seal off their territory from outsiders?

Stein Morten Lund, 5 December 2003

Additional information

Read more about exotic tribes on our website.

Source for the story about the Jarawa-tribe:

The Independent - newspaper in United Kingdom (Thursday 4 December 2003).

See also their website: www.independent.co.uk
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