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Some Previously Nomadic-Living Indigenous Tribe Members Embracing the Modern World

Updated on November 14, 2017
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Dorothy McKenney is a former newspaper reporter-turned researcher. Her husband, Mike, is a professional landscape/nature photographer.

The Atayal People of Smangus, Taiwan

Elderly member of the Atayal tribe smoking a pike.  Facial tattooing is one of the most important customs of this tribe - a custom which dates back over 1,400 years.  They are used to indicate one's place within the tribe.
Elderly member of the Atayal tribe smoking a pike. Facial tattooing is one of the most important customs of this tribe - a custom which dates back over 1,400 years. They are used to indicate one's place within the tribe.
Only 23 families live in this remote village of Smangus in Taiwan, which has a system of eco-communalism in order to control and sustain tourism to the area, necessary since the world was made aware of the giant cypress trees growing in the area.
Only 23 families live in this remote village of Smangus in Taiwan, which has a system of eco-communalism in order to control and sustain tourism to the area, necessary since the world was made aware of the giant cypress trees growing in the area. | Source

Atayal Tribe Creates System of Eco-Communalism

Taiwan has nine recognized tribes of indigenous people - Atayal, Bunun, Tsou, Saisiat, Paiwan, Puyuma, Ami, Yami (Tao) and Rukai. But the tribe most recognized, the Atayal, live in the remote mountains of central Taiwan in the small village of Smangus, with a population of 178 (23 families) as of 2015. For many years, the inhabitants of the village remained pretty much cut off from the rest of the world. But that was before the world discovered their giant cypress trees, causing an enormous amount of curiosity for people who wanted to see the trees for themselves; photos simply were not enough, and the tourists started arriving.

The discovery was both good news and bad for the residents, who didn't have electricity until 1979 and were ill-prepared to handle the influx of tourists. The only road leading in or out of the village was not completed until 1995 and children were forced to walk three hours across the valley to attend school. But, being forced to adapt, they did so and did it very well.

Today, however, the residents have developed a system of eco-communalism - the Smangus Tribal Labor Co-op - in which the families share the land, costs and the profits from the tourism brought in because of the mounting curiosity over the enormous cypress trees - a significant leap into the modern world. Thanks to the tourism, there are 40+ residents employed full time with salaries being increased four times in the last 10 years. The money that they are making from the 50,000+ tourists who visit the area each year is allowing them to build a new elementary school.

The Pintupi Nine in the Australian Bush

This is a photograph of the "pintupi nine" in 1984.  The group consisted of two sisters and their seven teenage children - four brothers and three sisters, who shared one father.  They were completely isolated from the modern world until 1984.
This is a photograph of the "pintupi nine" in 1984. The group consisted of two sisters and their seven teenage children - four brothers and three sisters, who shared one father. They were completely isolated from the modern world until 1984. | Source

How the Pintupi Nine Were Discovered

Until 1984, when they were discovered, the "Pintupi Nine" lived just as their ancestors had. They were unaware of clothes, beds, grocery stores and anything we in the modern world take for granted. They ate plants or animals that they had killed; were naked all the time; and slept on the ground at night.

This small group of Australian aboriginal people had been living a traditional nomadic life but were finally encountered in a desert in western Australia. Until then, they had been completely unaware of the arrival of Europeans on the continent and knew nothing of modern conveniences. When there was no water available in the watering holes that they frequented, they would drink the blood of monitor lizards.

These nine people may or may not be the last of the Australian nomads, but their lives have changed dramatically, as today they are international celebrities. In 1986 one of them returned to the desert, but three are world-famous aboriginal artists known as the Tjapaltjarri Brothers. One of the mothers died, but the other lives in Kiwirrkurra with the three sisters (Yalti, Yikultji and Takariya), who are also well-known aboriginal artists. Clearly, the modern world has embraced this group who had previously hid from a plane flying overhead in the desert, thinking it was the devil.

The cow remains sacred to the Dinka tribe of South Sudan.
The cow remains sacred to the Dinka tribe of South Sudan. | Source

Successful Dinka Tribe Members

There are approximately 3 million members of the Dinka tribe living in South Sudan at the present time. Most of the people listed below lived during, but later escaped from, the perils of the Second Sudanese Civil War, which resulted in the independence of South Sudan. These are just a few of the success stories of tribe members who achieved various levels of success in different fields:

  • Deng Thiak Adut - A defense lawyer and refugee advocate in Australia, he was a child soldier who later earned a law degree from Western Sydney University. He was named the 2017 New South Wales Australian of the Year.
  • Francis Piol Bol Bok - He was a slave for 10 years and is now an abolitionist and an author living in the United States.
  • Manute Bol (Died on June 19, 2010) - Bol was a slave for three years before he was 10 years old. As an adult, he was a human rights activist and established the Ring True Foundation in order to continue fund-raising for Sudanese refugees. He was 7'7" tall and was the tallest player in the history of North America's National Basketball Association, sharing the distinction with one other person. He is believed to have been born on October 16, 1962, in the area now known as South Sudan. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all Dinka tribe members.
  • John Dau (Dhieu-Deng Leek) - He was born into the Dinka tribe in war-torn Sudan and was one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" (20,000 youngsters, mostly male, who were displaced during the war). He was featured in the 2006 award-winning documentary called God Grew Tired of Us.
  • Ataui-Deng Hopkins (Ataui Deng) - She is a Sudanese American runway model who began her fashion career at the age of 17. She is the niece of internationally famous model Alek Wek, who was was born into the southern Sudanese Dinka tribe in 1977. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Guor Mading Maker (Guor Marial) - He, like John Dau, was also one of Sudan's "Lost Boys" but is now a South Sudanese track and field athlete and a Dinka tribesman. He competed in the men's marathon at the 2012 Summer Olympics as an "independent athlete,” the first in the history of the Olympics. Maker graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in chemistry.


© 2017 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I learned from this unique hub. Interesting and informative. A fascinating lesson about nomadic life.

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