Tribes

Apatani

The Apatani, or Tanw, also known by Apa and Apa Tani, are a tribal group of people living in the Ziro valley in the Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh in India.

Customs and lifestyle

Their wet rice cultivation system and their agriculture system are extensive even without the use of any farm animals or machines. So is their sustainable social forestry system. UNESCO has proposed the Apatani valley for inclusion as a World Heritage Site for its “extremely high productivity” and “unique” way of preserving the ecology. They have two major festivals – Dree and Myoko. In July, the agricultural festival of Dree is celebrated with prayers for a bumper harvest and prosperity of all humankind. Pakhu-Itu, Daminda, Pree dance, etc., are the main cultural programmes performed in the festival. Myoko is a festival to celebrate friendship similar to modern friendship day but unlike the latter which lasts only for a day, it is celebrated for almost a month long, from the end of March to the end of April. Apatanis trace their descent patrilineally.

The Apatanis, one of the major ethnic groups of eastern Himalayas, have a distinct civilization with systematic land use practices and rich traditional ecological knowledge of natural resources management and conservation, acquired over the centuries through informal experimentation. The tribe is known for their colorful culture with various festivals, intricate handloom designs, skills in cane and bamboo crafts, and vibrant traditional village councils called bulyañ. This has made Ziro Valley a good example of a living cultural landscape where man and environment have harmoniously existed together in a state of interdependence even through changing times, such co-existence being nurtured by the traditional customs and spiritual belief systems.

Nyishi

The Nyishi are the largest ethnic group in Arunachal Pradesh in north-eastern India. In Nishi, their traditional language, Nyi refers to “a man” and the word shi denotes “a being”, which combined together refers to a civilized human being. They are spread across seven districts of Arunachal Pradesh: Kra Daadi, Kurung Kumey, East Kameng, West Kameng, Papum Pare, parts of Lower Subansiri and Upper Subansiri. They also live in the Sonitpur and North Lakhimpur districts of Assam.

Their population of around 300,000 makes them the most populous tribe of Arunachal Pradesh, closely followed by the combined tribes of the Adis and the Galos who were the most populous in the 2001 census. The Nyishi language belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family, however, the origin is disputed.

Polygyny is prevalent among the Nyishi. It signifies one’s social status and economical stability and also proves handy during hard times like clan wars or social huntings and various other social activities. This practice, however is diminishing especially with the modernization and also with the spread of Christianity. They trace their descent patrilineally and are divided into several clans.