As modernization reaches even the farthest corners of the globe, more and more cultures are abandoning their traditions and heritage and have started embracing global ideologies. Progress is always welcome, but sometimes it comes at the cost of these rich indigenous people that are fast dying out. So before the inevitable march of time forever forgets these cultures, why not take a look at some of them that are already teetering on the brink of extinction?
Tsaatan of Northern Mongolia –
Herding was once an integral part of human existence, from which was born the rich and unique lifestyle of the Tsaatans of Northern Mongolia. For centuries, the subsistence of these people has been dependant on the reindeers that they so love and revere. They rely on the reindeer for milk and cheese as well as transportation across the rough, frigid and swampy terrain of their lands. The Tsaatan have been living a nomadic, reindeer-dependent lifestyle for centuries, always on the move in search of fresh lichen for their beloved reindeers. However, these days there are only 500 of them left as more and more youngsters have started heading to the cities. The survivors are ravaged by disease and are finding it difficult to maintain their lifestyle. Very soon, these fascinating reindeer people of Mongolia will be nothing more than a side-note in history.
Kalash of Chitral, Pakistan –
The Kalash of the Chitral district of Pakistan are amongst some of the most unique indigenous people of the world. Nestled in the midst of the predominantly Muslim population of Pakistan, the Kalash have their own unique religion, language, customs, apparel and traditions. For centuries, these beautiful people have managed to hold their own, partly thanks to the already varied heritage of the Chitral region. A lot of them have converted to Islam over the years but many still manage to hold onto their religious beliefs. While their language has strong Indo-Aryan roots, their religion is more akin to ancient Hindu beliefs. However, their folklore and mythology has evolved separate from the Hindus of the other parts of the world, resulting in a very unique mythos. Unlike other tribes, the Kalash people haven’t fallen prey to modernism, but what westernization couldn’t destroy, politics will. The ongoing militant attacks in the region are literally destroying these people. Already there are only 3,000 of them left and it is feared that the violence and atrocities will force these people to abandon their ancient lands and disseminate into other cultures soon.
The Loba of Mustang, Nepal –
Deep in the heart of the Himalayas in Nepal lies Mustang, one of the oldest medieval cities in the world. Mustang is what remains of the rich and ancient kingdom of Lo but the people here have managed to retain much of their ancient Tibetan heritage. Isolated and serene, the people of Mustang (or Loba as they are called) have led fairly unique lives even well into the 21st Century. For generations, the Loba managed to distance themselves from the influence of China and the political unrest of the region but all of that is about to change. With the construction of a new highway between Lhasa in Tibet and Kathmandu in Nepal, Mustang will suddenly find itself connected to major cities. There will definitely be an influx of new technology and more people will leave the ancient mountains in search of an urban lifestyle. It is believed that in time, the sun will finally set on the ancient culture of Lo Manthang.
The Huaorani of Ecuador –
The Huaorani are a tribe of hunter-gatherers who live deep in the heart of the Amazonian rainforests of Ecuador. For centuries, these people have sustained their unique lifestyle of surviving in the brutal rainforests by hunting with blowguns and deadly spears and largely staying away from outsiders. The forest represents safety and peace to the Huaorani and even today, they prefer staying away from the cities. But the discovery of crude oil reserves in that region has created a massive conflict between the Huaorani and the government. Things have reached the point where it is believed that the government refuses to acknowledge their existence while the few thousand surviving members are battling for their survival.
The Drokpas of Ladakh, India –
The Dha-Hanu valley of Ladakh is home to one of the only pure Aryan settlements in the world – the Drokpas. Tall, fair, full-lipped and with big light-colored eyes, the Drokpas are unlike any of the other Indo-Tibetan inhabitants of that region. They have survived for centuries as a standalone, indigenous culture and have maintained their legacy by not marrying outside the community. Interestingly, the Drokpas have a fairly permissive lifestyle and public-kissing and wife-swapping is a fairly common occurrence till this date. But their numbers are dwindling every year with more and more villagers departing for the cities.