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Tribes in Port Blair

Can you believe that there are some groups of people in the world who are still living completely untouched by modern ways of living? But, you will realise that it is a truth, if you visit Andaman and Nicobar Islands once. The islands, one of the union territories of India homes a considerably large portion of their population with the tribes who still follow a very ancient way of life. These tribes have significant role in the history of Port Blair.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which are spread over the Indian Ocean and the southern range of the Bay of Bengal, possess around 570 Islands. Out if which 38 of them are inhabitant by humans. As these islands are isolated from the mainland India, the people, especially the tribes here mainly lived a self-contained life. They discouraged the interference of outsiders and developed a unique culture of their own. It is an attempt to introduce the important tribal groups in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Tribes in Port Blair

The main sensitive tribal groups in Port Blair

  • Great Andamanese of Strait Island
  • Nicobarese of Great Nicobar
  • Jarawas of South and Middle Andaman
  • Onges of Little Andaman
  • Shompens of Great Nicobar
  • Sentinelese of Sentinel Islands
The first four groups belong to Negrito tribes, while the other two belong to Mongoloid tribes. The Negrito group are believed to have traveled to the Andaman Islands from Africa around 60,000 years ago. Among the Mongoloid origin, the Shompen are also in the similar stage and are still away from outsiders. But, the other Mongoloid group, Nicobarese has started accepting the challenge of change and they have prospered and multiplied.

The first tribal group that come into contact with the Indian settlers were the Great Andamanese, who are followed by the Onge and lastly the Jarawa. Now, all tribes, except Sentinelese have come into contact with the Indian settlers. The Negritos and the Mongoloids occupied the Islands for centuries and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands remained the adobe for these tribes.

Great Andamanese

Great Andamanese were the largest in population among different tribes in the Andaman Islands. When the British established penal settlement in the Andamans in mid 19th century, there were around 5000 member in this community. But, they lost many of their members during the conflict with British settlers to defend their territory from invasion, and their population is reduced to mere 50. However, by 1970, these tribes have been rehabilitated in a small island named Strait Island. It is in a short distance from Port Blair and they live there now totally dependent on the government for shelter, clothing and even food.  The administration is doing their best to protect Great Andamanese.

Originally Great Andamanese hunted and gathered their food. Their traditional food consists of crabs, fish, turtle meat, eggs, roots and tubers. Now they started growing crops and rear poultry, even though they continue hunting. They eat rice, chapatti, dal and other modern food items and cook food using spices. As coastal people, their favourite items are octopus, molluses taken from shell of marine animals such as scorpion shell, turban shell, helmet, sundial, screw shell and trochus.  But due to the contact with the urban, non-tribal, dominant and advanced communities, they acquired communicable diseases and unhealthy drinking habits.


Tribes in Port Blair

Onge

Onges, who are the most primitive tribes in India are also semi-nomadic tribe and are fully dependant on the food provided by nature. They usually lived in two separate reserves in Little Andaman, which are Hut Bay and Dugong Creek. But after the devastating Tsunami, they moved further interior to the forest.  There were around 672 Onges in 1901. But, due to the British occupation of the Islands in the 19th century, this tribe has been reduced to around 110 members.

The Administration provides them with pucca houses, food, medicine and clothes. A primary school also has been started functioning at the Dugong Creek settlement of Onges. They usually eat fish, turtle, roots and juck fruits etc. They have also developed artistry and crafts.

Jarawas

Only limited information is available on Jarawas, apart from the fact that live in oval huts, they use rafts and they are excellent swimmers. This tribe with approximately 320 populations live in thick forests of the Middle Andaman. They were totally isolated from the outside world till recent.

It is marked in the history that in 1997 Oct 21, 8 Jarawas including 4 women emerged from the jungle close to Kadamtala in Middle Andaman. They pointed to their bellies signalling for food. The villagers gave them bananas and coconuts. The villagers were frightened that the Jarawas might lose their arrows in case. However, after this incident, the Jarawas started to arrive nearby villages at regular intervals.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt of India and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and A & N Administration together finalized a policy on the jarawa Tribe. According to this, special wards at Tushnabad, Kadamtala and G.B Pant Hospital are provided for this tribe.

Sentineles

The Sentineles are the tribes of North Sentinel Island, which has an area about 60 Sq. Kilometers. They are probably the only paleolithic people in the world who survive today without contact with any other community or group. The Sentineles, who do not even have contact with the main tribes, are very hostile and never like to leave their Isalnds. They are so strange that they even fire a shower of arrows at any strange person who comes nearby. Therefore, very little is known about this tribal group. It is thought that this group possesses between 50 and 200 people. As approaching them is very difficult, the exact number is not available.

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