Tribes and people: remote cultures or away from cultures?
Not all people on Earth are part of modern life. The majority have a lifestyle surrounded by technology in the skyscrapers. What about a way of living in the wild in a remote forest isolated from the contemporary world? Recently, drones in the Amazon forests recorded a new human group. Although these people did not run away and say, “The devil’s car” by seeing the strange object, their surprise was evident in the video. We, who want to explore planets millions of miles away, still do not know each other on Earth. Besides, we prejudge those we know as the ones far from culture. Yes, far from civilization. Those who call themselves modern people declare the ones who preserve their original way of life and have no influence on the world as “tribes far from culture.” However, when we look at each of them, we see that there are only cultural differences. Maybe as human beings, we should give each other more chances. Let’s find the answer to this question in our blog.
Batak tribe - Philippines
The Batak tribe, which lives in the southern part of the Palawan Island of the Philippines, is thought to be the genetic carriers of the first inhabitants of the planet. The current population of the world is supposed to come from this race. It is considered that the Bataks were the first human groups to leave Africa 70,000 years ago, and some 20,000 years later, they crossed the Asian continent into the Philippines. In appearance, they resemble those of the Negroid race. They usually have short and curly hair. Men often do not use clothing or wander around almost naked (covering certain parts of the body with feathers). Women wear national costumes.
The Bataks have been engaged in hunting and trading the seeds of useful nutrients for centuries. In the late 19th century, some significant changes occurred in the lifestyle with the arrival of Americans in the region. Thus, the tribe, away from the political and cultural experience for many years, was exposed to contact with strangers. Since 1900, Filipinos and others have begun to migrate to the traditional areas of Batak. It has led to the depletion of food reserves and lands of Batak families. The tribe, which had been stretched to the mountains, had to live in less productive areas.
Generally, they are shy and peaceful people, and one of the main features of skillful hiding in the forest and taking care of strangers. Like many other indigenous tribes, the population is now about 300-500 people due to the diseases and other reasons. The biggest threat to the tribe today is ecology. Per the Philippine government’s ban on deforestation in some areas, the Batak tribe’s tradition of burning forest areas and opening agricultural land is now under the ban. It affects their nutrition. Their belief system is closely linked to animism, belief in the spirits that live in nature. Bataks regularly make sacrifices for these spirits. It is believed that the shamans communicate with the spirits, heal the sick, and make connections between people and supernatural forces.
Today, there is a rapid depopulation of the Batak tribe, developmental deformities because of sedentary lifestyle, and extraterrestrial interventions. To find “real” Batak members is rare due to the tendency to marry from other neighboring groups. Other factors also contribute to the decline in the number of tribal members. Thus, they do not increase due to the difficulty of the food supply. As a result, Batak is facing the threat of losing its tribe identity.
Huli – Papua New Guinea
The Huli is one of the most diverse tribes in Papua New Guinea. It is one of the largest, most original cultural groups in the region, with a population of about 150,000. Huli is considered a proud and fearless warrior. They usually prefer traditional methods during the solution of disputes. Land, pigs, and women can be reason for the tribal wars.
We cannot include them in the list of isolated tribes. Thus, the Huli tribe actively communicate with the modern world and are the closest friends of tourists. Huli people love to participate in festivals and gatherings. They consider themselves a nation of the ancestors of a man named Huli. Pigs are Huli’s primary means of exchange and are the most valuable asset to Huli. The condition of a person in the local community is measured by the number of pigs he has. The more pigs, the more prestige the man has in the tribe. Men and women live in separate homes, as contact with women considered harmful.
It is effortless to separate them from other people. Huli people have unique and colorful traditional body decorations and make colored wigs from their hair. They like to tie their hair in a particular way and decorate it with jewelry. A self-proclaimed warrior and every man must have a few wigs. Wigs designed for ordinary and special occasions are decorated with chamomile flowers, birds of paradise, and parrots. Any young person under the age of 14 must start a “wig school” to learn how to make wigs from his hair. This process is one of the most important rituals in the lives of Huli members. It takes about 18 months to grow and make a wig from the hair. Every man who completes this period paints his face with yellow ocher and is allowed to marry. The men of the Huli tribe are known as “Huli wigged men” for this habit.
Ambua- clay they use to decorate their bodies is considered sacred per their beliefs. Huli people are also brave warriors. Their decorations and costumes might not threaten one; however, this tribe is distinguished by its belligerence.
In their cultures, boys live with their mothers until they reach the age of seven. They must then stay with their father to learn specific skills. Unmarried Huli men prepare themselves for adulthood. Every young man entering the age of 18 must prepare for future life within the next few months. During this time, they should avoid all contact with the women. The main goal here is to achieve the proper implementation of the biological process of young boys.
You can see the Huli tribe along with other tribes in the area during the annual Sing-Sing festival and ceremony in the region. It may also be thought of as a meeting where all the local tribal leaders gather to discuss their issues. It is also a great event to present their culture and strengths as a community.
Surma tribe - Ethiopia
Surma (or Suri), a collective human group living in southwestern Ethiopia, is divided into three subgroups: Chai, Timaga, and Baale groups, politically and territorially different. The Ethiopian troops conquered the Suri territory in 1897. The region was officially united into Ethiopia. The boundaries of the Surma tribe were often the target of tribal attacks by imperial soldiers. Suri, who is now more integrated into national Ethiopian governance structures, are now under the control of the state. The society previously had a sufficiently autonomous political structure, led by elders, as well as by a chief or clergyman who performed several rituals. The Ethiopian government currently elects the leaders.
Suri believes a sky god named Tumu, and have a traditional belief system. Komoru is a mediator between humans and Tumu, who acts as a mediator with the god of the sky, who brings rain and blessings. However, Suri has no form of public worship service dedicated to Tumu. In the last 15 years, Christianity has gained popularity among the Suri (about 200-300), especially in Kibish and among those who leave the area for education. Another belief of the Suri is in rainmaking. This skill is passed down through heredity and is only given to one male in specific clans. When his services are needed, the men collect chips from a particular tree and mixed with clay. This combination is poured and smeared over the man’s body. After this process, rain is expected to fall.
One of the most popular traditions of Suri is the fighting competition between men called Dronga. Men demonstrate their fighting skills in the competitions help in nude or half-nude form. Men’s strength is checked to prevent any future attacks, and this helps them to find their future wife.
Another weird ritual among the Suri women is inserting clay plates to their lower lip as a sign of beauty. At puberty, most young women have their lower teeth removed, and the lower lip is stretched to place clay lip plate. The bigger the plate, the more cattle the woman is ‘worth’ for her bride price. Representatives of the younger generation have begun to refuse this habit.
Maasai - Kenya, and Tanzania
Maasai is a tribe inhabiting in northern, central and southern Kenya, and in the north of Tanzania. They are included in the list of Nilotic ethnic groups, as they have distributed in the Nile Valley. The name of the tribe means “Maa-speaking people.” They are known for their distinctive red dresses and bravery. Unlike others, it is the first of the less isolated tribes. One of the reasons is that the tribe is close to the dwelling area. Some of them can speak English. Of course, the intervention of the governments of Tanzania and Kenya should be noted here as well. Although governments have developed programs to encourage the Maasai people to abandon traditional semi-nomad lifestyles, they have succeeded to some extend. Maasai people are retaining their old habits. They also allow tourists to observe their tribal lives. They welcome visitors to the region to demonstrate their culture, traditions, and lifestyles.
The customs of Maasai people are also slightly different. Maasai people drink cow’s blood on special days such as baby circumcision, baby’s birth, and marriage ceremonies. Blood is pumped from the veins without killing the cows. The Maasai people also spit into each other’s hands as they greet. They believe that spitting on the face of a newborn baby is also crucial in the child’s future life. In doing so, they think that they keep the evil spirits away from the baby.
Kalash people - Pakistan
The tribal members who live in Pakistan belong to the white-colored, blue-eyed Europeanoid race. Kalash’s appearance, which is strange to this geographical area, is associated with their Greek ancestors.
It is considered that Kalash people are descendants of the Greek soldiers who came to the region during the Macedonian Alexander’s invasion of India. Their DNA also proves this. The Kalash people reside in the Chitral district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northwestern Pakistan.
They are distinguished not only for their appearance. The tribe has a very different culture than the majority of Muslims in the region. Their culture has been included in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List. Kalash people produce wine, wear bright colored clothes (while the word “Kalash” means “black.”), hold festivals, and give women more freedom. For many years, the Kalash tribe believed in polytheism. According to 2016 statistics, the population of the Kalash tribe is about 3,000.
Goroka - Papua New Guinea
One of dozens of tribes living in Papua New Guinea is Goroka. Members of this tribe are mostly known all over the world for their colorful festivals. The presence of numerous tribes in the region often led to conflicts and bloodshed in the area. To prevent this, the Goroka Festival was organized by the first missionaries who came to Papua New Guinea in the mid-1950s. The aim was to restore stability in the region and to end hostile relations. Now, these festivals serve more tourist purposes. Thousands of tourists come to the festival every September. By the way, this year’s festival will be held on September 19-20.
The most exciting moment of the festival is the Asaro Mudmen Show. The show has a close connection with the ancient legends of the Garako people, defeated their enemy tribes. When trying to escape from the enemy, the Garako people sink into the clay and mud in the Asaro River. The Garako people, assuming the enemy tribes are moving away from the region, returned to the village. The enemies thought they are spirits and fled away in fear. Thus, the legend of Asaro emerges. The locals dance as a spirit during the Asaro Mudmen Show. Members of the Goroka tribe paint their faces and place colored parrot feathers on their heads. They use the cockleshell as a decoration. Healthy and wealthy families run the tribe.
Sentinelese tribe - India
The most isolated tribe in the world is the Sentinelese. Very little is known about this tribe residing in the North Sentinel Islands of the Andaman Islands. Sentinelese are black and short with a healthy appearance and muscular body structure. The Sentinelese are not hospitable, as they are against all contact with strangers and attack anyone who wants to get to the island. In 2006, several fishers were killed by residents of the island. In 2018, 26-year-old American blogger John Allen Chau, who wanted to get to the island, was killed by members of the tribe. Several attempts were made to contact the Sentinelese. In early 1974, the National Geographic film crew traveled to the island accompanied by a group of anthropologists and an armed police officer for the shooting of the documentary “Man in search of a man.” They were planning to spread the donation and establish friendships within three days to contact the tribe. The Sentinelese, seeing the strangers, welcomed their uninvited guests with arrows. The crew landed safely on the beach and put gifts on the beach, including miniature plastic cars, coconuts, live pigs, toys, and aluminum cookware. In return, the Sentinelese wounded the director, killed the pig, buried it with the toy, and took away other things. Thanks to this expedition, the Sentinelese were first seen and presented as people for whom “arrows speak louder than words” in the National Geographic Magazine. There is, however, a weak possibility that the Sentinelese are Hannibal. It is known that they are engaged in fishing, making small boats, and at the same time, making metal tools.
Karo - Ethiopia
Another Nilotic tribe is the Karo tribe residing along the banks of the Lower Omo River. They are mainly engaged in farming and adorn their bodies with colorful patterns and animal motifs as a sign of beauty. Members of the Karo tribe, numbering about 2,000, also use headgear. Of course, it is related to the desire to look more attractive to the opposite sex. The concept of beauty in Karo people is entirely different. Women cut their bodies to look beautiful. The surface of the wound is rubbed with ashes to ensure that the scars are permanent. Women who carry such scars on their chests and backs are considered more attractive and beautiful. Such abrasions in men’s bodies are regarded as symbols of strength and courage. Every cut on the body is a symbol of a deadly war. In general, the Karo people attach great importance to appearance and try to emphasize it on their bodies. Three sacred and mystical colors, white, black, and red, should be on men’s hairstyles and in women’s clothing. Putting ostrich feathers on the hair is also a habit. Men who keep their hair in a special clay change it every six months.
Young people who want to get married, dance for their future mates. Such dances usually take place during special ceremonies. Young boys, if they’re going to get married, have to fight bulls. It also gives the winner a chance to sit in an assembly of adults.
Pirahã - Brazil
The Pirahã are indigenous tribes of the Amazon Indians, Brazil, and live mainly on the banks of the Maici River. At present, they are 800 individuals. It is drastically lower than the figures recorded in previous decades, and the Pirahã culture is almost at risk of destruction. The members of the Pirahã tribe are called the happiest people in the world. The culture, religious beliefs, and lifestyle of the Pirahã people are quite different. There is no date for them. They only live in today.
Daniel Everett, a researcher, and anthropologist says the Pirahã tribe has no official leaders. Their social system is identical to that of many other hunter-gatherer groups in the world, although there are many differences. They sleep not more than two hours during the day and at night, and rarely sleep at night.
Their decorations are mainly necklaces used to protect from evil spirits. When it comes to the facts investigated by the researchers on the Pirahã tribe, their culture consists only of what is happening today in the context of direct personal experience.
The language system is also quite different. There is no compound word combinations. Some words combine several pure sounds in the language of Pirahã. There is a controversial theory that there is no color terminology in the language. No root words are available to explain the colors. They use the word “blood-like” instead of “red.” They use only three pronouns in their languages and do not use any tense-related words. No long verb combinations in the past tense are available. Researchers say that the Pirahã people do not make long sentences. For example, instead of “I want to talk to you after I wash my hands,” they say, “I wash my hand. I am talking to you.”
The Pirahã people do not know the numbering system. They do not have words for precise numbers in their language. They never use words such as “everybody,” “every,” and even “more.” They do not understand the concept of numbers. There are two numbers for them: “some” and “most.” The word “Hoi” means a relatively small amount. In a study by Columbia University scientists, they were asked to repeat the numbers between 1 and 10. However, the Pirahã people could not repeat the numbers. According to scientists, people who have no understanding of numbers do not develop the ability to determine accurate figures.
Marriage relationships in the Piraha tribe differ from others. Usually, extramarital affairs are welcomed. Divorce is made according to a unique custom. The man puts his head in his wife’s arms, and his wife hits him in the head for hours. The parties do not behave aggressively with each other at this voluntary ceremony. After this ceremony, they are considered divorced.
Generally, women and men in the Piraha tribe are considered almost equal. Both men and women carry out hunting. Men mostly hunt with hunting tools and women with the help of dogs. Gathering is a part of their daily lives. They know the benefits and disadvantages of all plants in their area. They are well aware of the behavior of animals in the area and can catch and hunt them.
Anthropologist Everett’s book “Do not sleep, there are snakes” gives exciting facts about the Piraha Tribe. According to him, Piraha people have no concept of a higher spirit or god. However, sometimes they believe in spirits who can take images of things around them. These spirits can be any obvious things, such as jaguar, tree, or human. He describes the Piraha man as follows: “Piraha man laughs at everything. They laugh at their misfortune. They laugh when they catch many fish, even when they do not catch any. They laugh when they are full and when they are hungry. It is hard to explain this extend happiness. It is not because their lives are easy, but because they enjoy their lives and what they do.”
Tsaatan Tribe - Mongolia
Tsaatan tribes live nomad life in northern Mongolia in the Siberian border of Russia. They are known as reindeer herders and are considered the last members of this group. They have not changed their lifestyles and occupations for thousands of years.
Tsaatan tribes, originally from the Russian Tuvin region, live in the taiga forests on Mongolia and the Russian border. Reindeers constitute a large part of their agriculture and culture. The Tsaatan tribe admits that the deer’s annihilation means the destruction of the native culture. They do not eat the meat of reindeer but use animals only for milk, cheese, and transport. Shamanism and intercourse with spirits are central in their beliefs. The shamanism that the Tsaatan people believe is different from the other shamanic religions in the region and is the oldest branch of theology. They use mystical beliefs in many stages of their daily lives. The ritual is performed by a shaman called “Boo.”
Yanomami - North Brazil and South Venezuela
The Yanomami tribe residing in the Amazon forests of northern Brazil and southern Venezuela, still maintain community rules. The international community first recognized the Yanomami tribe in the 1940s. The arrival of officials of the Brazilian government to explore the area to determine the boundaries of Brazil with Venezuela has led to the discovery of the Yanomami tribe. The intervention of the missionaries and the government in the region has begun since then. As a result, outbreaks of measles and flu in the Yanomami tribe have led to mass deaths. Subsequently, the projects to lay the road along the northern border of the Amazon have started. In 1970, bulldozers were deployed to the region without warning the tribe. The expansion of the territory where the tribe was inhabited led to the colonial conquest of the area. Since 1980, the influx of miners has begun. Hundreds of innocent members of the tribe were killed. Only after the international intervention, the territory where the tribe was inhabited began to be protected as the “Yanomami Park” since 1992. Although the miners were expelled from the region, they returned to the area after some time and carried out numerous massacres. Although criminals receive legal punishment, actual incidents are still happening in Yanomami.
Community law prevails in the lifestyle of the Yanomami tribe. Rituals, religious ceremonies, and important events for the community are organized in a central square. Around the square, there are houses called Janos (or Shabono). Each Shabono is considered an autonomy within the tribe and enjoys economic and self-government freedom. As with most Amazon regions, traditionally Yanomami members — men and women — adorn their bodies with flowers and feathers. Only marriages between relatives are held in the community, as family relationships prevail in Yanomami society and politics. Men are engaged in hunting, and women are involved in farming.
Religious beliefs of Yanomami are closely linked to shamanism. Everything has a soul, according to them. They believe that the tree, the stone, and the animal have a soul. They believe that evil spirits cause all kinds of trouble, illness, and conflict. Yanomami people place great importance on the spiritual power of the forest that surrounds them. Like most of the local Amazons, Yanomami has traditionally used animism as their religion. Yanomami calls these shamanic spirits khapiripë (sometimes called hekura or hekurapë). To see these spirits, it is necessary to use a hallucinogen called yopo or ebene. Yopo is made from the bark of the Virola tree and is generally used by shamans and spiritually-minded people. Generally, the Yanomami tribe is viewed as a violent tribe as they live in a state of “chronic war.”
There are hundreds of such tribes and people on Earth. Unfortunately, today they are facing the threat of extinction. Interventions, deforestation, and various environmental problems increase the risk of extinction of these cultures. Although organizations like FUNAI have taken several steps to draw attention to the sensitivity of the issue, the threat is growing every day. In this case, the destruction or assimilation of tribal members may occur.
Vusala was engaged in pedagogical activities for a while. Music inspires her to read classic and autobiographical books, to travel, to constantly improve herself. She is interested in paintings by Rob Gonzalves and Salvador Dali. She makes the steps on the way to becoming a writer, researcher-journalist, blogger.