Key Facts about Nyishi Tribe

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Mountaineer and cricketer Kabak Yano etched her name in history recently by becoming the fifth woman from Arunachal Pradesh and the first woman from the Nyishi tribe to scale Mt. Everest.

About Nyishi Tribe:

  • The Nyishi are the largest ethnic group in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • 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. 
    • The Nyishi language belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family; however, its origin is disputed.
  • Geographical Distribution:
    • They are concentrated in eight districts of Arunachal Pradesh, East Kameng, Pakke Kesang, Papum Pare, Lower Subansiri, Kamle, Kra Daadi, Kurung Kumey, and Upper Subansiri.
    • They also live in Sonitpur and the North Lakhimpur district of Assam.
  • Their population of around 300,000 makes them the most populous tribe in 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 support themselves with slash-and-burn agriculture and hunting and fishing. 
  • Along with agriculture and allied activities, the Nyishis are experts in handicrafts such as weaving, cane and bamboo works, pottery, blacksmith, wood carving, carpentry, etc.
  • Religion:
    • According to the 2011 Census, Nyishi follows Christian (31%), Hinduism (29%), and many still follow the indigenous Donyi Polo.
  • Donyi means the Sun, and Polo means the Moon, which are revered as the Ayu Donyi (Great Mother Sun) and Atu Polu (Great Father Moon).
  • Festivals:
    • The Nyishi celebrates three major festivals, namely, Boori-Boot (February), Nyokum (February), and Longte (April).
    • They celebrate and pleases the gods and goddesses for a good harvest, health, wealth, and prosperity.
  • Polygyny is prevalent among the Nyishi.
  • They trace their descent patrilineally and are divided into several clans.
  • One striking feature of Nyishi society is that it is neither based on a caste system nor stratified into classes, except for a loose type of social distinction which is not determined by birth or occupation. 
  • Nyishis consider women the source of peace, progress and prosperity. According to them, the importance status of women increases and binds through an established ‘reciprocal marital exchange’ system in the society.

Q1: What is the Sino-Tibetan family of languages?

The Sino-Tibetan language family includes early literary languages, such as Chinese, Tibetan, and Burmese, and is represented by more than 400 modern languages spoken in China, India, Burma, and Nepal. It is one of the most diverse language families in the world, spoken by 1.4 billion speakers.

Source: From 22 yards to top of the world: 1st woman from Arunachal’s Nyishi tribe scales Everest