SHOMPEN TRIBE (Syllabus: GS Paper 1 – Geograohy)

News-CRUX-10     22nd February 2024        

Context: Recently, India's president embarked on a whistle-stop tour of an island designated for multi-billion-dollar development, raising concerns among experts about the potential threat to the indigenous Shompen tribe, who have inhabited it.

Shompen Tribe

  • About: The Shompen reside in the dense tropical rainforest of the Great Nicobar Island of Andaman and Nicobar group of Islands.
  • Community: They are one of the least studied Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in India, despite their historical significance.
  • Population: While the Census (2011) estimated their population at 229, the exact number of Shompen remains unknown, shrouded in mystery till today.
  • Isolationist Lifestyle: Most Shompen live uncontacted, adamantly refusing interactions with outsiders, preserving their cultural integrity.
  • Community Structure: Living in small groups, their territories are demarcated by the rivers coursing through the rainforest, fostering close-knit communities.
  • Semi-Nomadic Traditions: They subsist as semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers, relying on hunting, gathering, fishing, and rudimentary horticultural activities for sustenance.
  • Hunting and Gathering Practices: Traditional hunting targets include wild pig, python, monitor lizard, crocodile, sea turtle, among others, sustaining their dietary needs.
  • Language: Shompen speak a distinct language with multiple dialects, rendering inter-band communication challenging due to linguistic barriers.
  • Physical Characteristics: Short to medium stature, round or broad head shapes, narrow noses, and distinctly Mongoloid features, they exhibit a unique physical appearance.
  • Family Structure: Shompen families follow a nuclear structure, with the eldest male member assuming authority over all household affairs, including women and children.
  • Marital Norms: Monogamy is prevalent within Shompen society, although polygamy is permitted, reflecting the nuances of their cultural traditions.
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