Shompen Tribe

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India's president recently made a whistle stop tour of an island earmarked for multi-billion-dollar development that experts warn could wipe out the indigenous Shompen tribe, which calls it home.

About Shompen Tribe

  • The Shompen are one of the most isolated tribes on Earth.
  • They reside in the dense tropical rain forest of the Great Nicobar Island of Andaman and Nicobar group of Islands.
  • They are one of the least studied Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in India.
  • Though according to the Census (2011), the estimated population of Shompen is 229, the exact population of Shompen is unknown till today.
  • Most of them are uncontacted, refusing all interactions with outsiders.
  • They live in small groups, whose territories are identified by the rivers that criss-cross the rainforest.
  • They are semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers, and their main sources of livelihood are hunting, gathering, fishing, and a little bit of horticultural activities in a rudimentary form.
    • Primarily, they used to hunt wild pig, python, monitor Lizard, crocodile, see turtle etc.
    • They collect a wide variety of forest plants, but their staple food is the pandanus fruit, which they call larop. 
  • Shompen speak their own language, which has many dialects. Members of one band do not understand the dialect of the other. 
  • They are of short to medium stature, have a round or nearly broad head shape, narrow nose, a broad facial profile, and distinctly exhibit Mongoloid features such as light brown to yellow brown skin and oblique eye features.
  • Shompen have nuclear families comprising husband, wife, and their unmarried children.
    • A Shompen family is controlled by the eldest male member, who controls all activities of the women and kids.
    • Monogamy is the general rule, although polygamy is allowed too.

Q1) What are Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)?

PVTGs are a more vulnerable group among tribal groups in India. These groups have primitive traits, geographical isolation, low literacy, zero to negative population growth rate and backwardness. Moreover, they are largely dependent on hunting for food and a pre-agriculture level of technology.Currently, there are 2.8 million PVTGs belonging to 75 tribes across 22,544 villages in 220 districts across 18 states and Union Territories in India. According to the 2011 Census, Odisha has the largest population of PVTGs at 866,000.

Source: Great Nicobar: Indian president visits island as fears grow for tribe