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5 Amazing Tribes Still in Existence

Updated on October 30, 2015

Despite the rise of technology and everything else that comes with modern civilization, there are hundreds of groups all over the world that have somehow evaded this progress. Their continued efforts to evade the rest of the world’s progress are truly fascinating, as they choose to live by the same standards they have been taught to follow for hundreds of years. They continue with their primitive way of doing things, staying true to their culture.

Here are some of the most amazing tribes around the world:

  • Surma Tribe (Ethiopia). The Surma tribe is actually composed of three different groups, the Suri, the Mursi and the Me’en people. They live in the southwestern part of Ethiopia. Their current population is tagged at around 187,000. They usually live around the mountains, and they take pride in the fierceness of their lineage. Their competitiveness goes as far as choosing their brides, with the entire process often resulting in injury or death. They are best known for the piercing of their bottom lips, which is stretched until a clay plate can be inserted. However, as the exposure to other cultures increase, a lot of young girls now refuse to follow this tradition. The children are often painted with white dots on their faces and bodies. Although they have always been set on trying to preserve their old ways, they have also acquired firearms to have better chances against neighboring tribes and to protect their livestock.

  • Sentinelese (India). Very few are known about the people that inhabit North Sentinel Island, which is found south of the Great Andaman archipelago. Although there have been numerous attempts through the years to establish communication with the tribe, very little is known about them as they continue to be hostile to the outside world. Because they apply a hunter-gatherer way of life, much of their resources come from the sea and from the land. No one has any idea about their exact number, although 40 to 60 of them have been seen on a few occasions. It is also unknown how they were able to survive the earthquake in the Indian Ocean in 2004, which resulted in a tsunami that affected the island. Most of their weapons consist of flatbows and javelins, which they are able to wield accurately against human targets at a range of up to 10 meters.

  • Korowai (Papua New Guinea). The Korowai people live in isolated areas around southeastern Papua, with the majority of them living in high tree houses. Although they have very good hunting and fishing skills, some of their people have also started earning a living by working with tour companies that offer a peek at their interesting culture. These tours often include feasts that feature sago, the Korowai people’s staple food, as well as shows that focus on some of their traditional rituals. Like a lot of other tribes, leadership is gauged by the strength of men. Conflicts are often based on sorcery and witchcraft, sometimes leading to inter-clan warfare. They pay reverence to spirits, with more focus on the spirits of their ancestors over the spirit of Ginol Silamtena, the creator. They are also strong believers in reincarnation and they see babies within their clan to be the dead members of their tribe being born again. They have a rich culture that focuses on oral traditions abounding with myths, magical sayings and folktales. A number of documentaries have been made about the tribe, and several have also been converted to become Christians. However, it is also believed that some villages that continue to resist contact with the outside world still practice cannibalism, which was reported to have been their practice since the olden times as a part of their justice system.

  • San People or Bushmen (South Africa). The San people include a number of different nations scattered all over areas of Botswana, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia and South Africa. Although San is the collective term used for them, they still prefer to be called by their specific tribal groups such as Haillom, Kua and Tsoa, among others. Very few names are used within each family, with each child born being named after a relative. Because of this, there are only around 35 names used for each gender. Leisure is a very important part of their culture, as they spend a lot of time joking, dancing, playing music, and talking. Men do most of the hunting, although a few women also take part in it. Because of the huge amount of drought in the area, the San people are known for their sip wells. They find areas in the sand that are damp and they scrape small holes in it. They insert hollow grass stems into the hole, using them as straws as they sip the water from it and collect the water in empty ostrich eggs. They are also known for persistence hunting, which involves chasing their prey for a span of 2 to 5 hours, usually over distances of 25 to 35 kilometers until it collapses. With the sweltering 40° to 42°C heat in the dessert, it is quite astounding how they manage to survive the hunt at all.

  • Batak (Philippines). The Batak tribe has been around for over 50,000 years, and their numbers are fast dwindling. They live mostly by hunting, gathering and fishing, although the past few years have seen them adapting to changing conditions, adding agriculture as a source of food and income. They are known to use the slash and burn farming method, planting root crop, rice and vegetables and burning these to the ground during the dry season. Once the rainy season sets in, they start planting again. In terms of hunting, both men and women help out as they go after wild pigs using spears. Their domesticated dogs also help out in the hunting process. To fish for food, they are known to use poison taken from plants and put these on their fishing hooks, stunning the fish temporarily as they are caught. Although they have a long history of being nomads, a lot of them have already settled into small villages that the government has provided for them. Despite this fact, they still go into the forest all the time, not only to gather food, but also to satisfy their spiritual needs. The Batak people are known to follow animism, which is a belief system that gives reverence to nature. This is one of the reasons why they treasure the forests and other natural resources so much, as they believe that abusing natural resources would cause the spirits to retaliate. Sadly, the fact that the number of forests that they have access to are also dwindling in number, having a huge impact on their culture. Today, Batak people have started marrying into other tribes, and only a few pure Bataks remain.

Although these tribes are seen by civilized people to be very primitive, it is amazing how they are able to live and survive despite having very little. It is truly unbelievable how their strict rules, simple as they may be, are able to help them live in harmony with each other.

There are a number of other ancient tribes around the world that continue to exist, some of them welcoming civilized people in their midst, while some of them remaining hostile and resistant to change. But at the end of the day, primitive as their lives may seem to us, they still remain to be part of the world’s seamless harmony, slowly evolving as time passes.

Do you know any other tribes that continue to live in their old ways?

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    • kgmonline profile image

      Geri Mileff 2 years ago from Czech Republic

      @Hannah David Cini - Thank you for reading it :)

    • Hannah David Cini profile image

      Hannah David Cini 2 years ago from Nottingham

      A really interesting hub. I hadn't heard of any of these. It is strange how completely different their world must be from ours. Thanks for writing, a very enjoyable read.