(Last update : April 2021)
(Indigenous peoples, ethnic groups and tribes which I met, who still - at least when I was there - retain a strong cultural identity)
My top 10
Danis (Papua, Indonesia) : a tribe of former warriors in a remote high valley where men are naked except for a penis gourd. It was a travel back to prehistory ! (1976).
Korowaï (Papua, Indonesia) : a 'stone age' tribe living in tree-houses, deep in the equatorial forest. This tribe was discovered only in 1974. (2001).
Tsaatans (Mongolia) : a non-Mongol group of nomadic reindeer herders in the taïga, doomed to disappear in a near future (2007).
Nenets (Russian Arctic) : nomadic reindeer herders. I spent a week with a family & was lucky enough to watch the transhumance when they move their camp (2008).
Peoples of the Omo Valley (Ethiopia) : a mosaic of ethnic groups, such as the Mursi (lip plate women) (1987) & Peoples of Eastern South Sudan, very authentic, such as the Toposas..., in a relatively nearby region (2020).
North Vietnam minorities next to the Chinese & lao borders : a kaleidoscope of colorful national costumes (2008).
Hakkas (China) : a minority living in communal round fortresses (2011).
Dogons (Mali) : an ethnic group with strong religious traditions, rich wooden sculpture and specific architecture (1981).
Dongs & Miaos (China) : large minorities with strong traditions, unique covered bridges & very impressive national costumes (2002).
Himbas (Namibia) : their hair & naked body is covered in ochre ; a trip back to prehistory, about 30 years ago (1991).
Northwest. Traditional homes ('tatas') built as fortresses for protection from wild animals & intruders (January 1993).
Central African Republic
Dzanga-Sangha rainforest. Hunter-gatherers, still living in small round huts made of branches and leaves. Saw Bayaka practicing net-hunting (May 2017).
Democratic Republic of the Congo
South Kivu. Northeast, Ituri forest (Beni area). Also named : Bambuti. Reached after some exhausting trekking in the equatorial forest.
They are still hunter-gatherers ; naked except a loincloth. Saw them hunting. Still often living in traditional round leaf and liana huts (July 1989).
North. Nomadic camel breeding people. An amazing place : Archei guelta with hundreds of camels (November 2002).
Semi nomadic people with still traditional huts (dabeytas) (February 2018)
Inland & Dosse Island (Dahlak Islands). Nomadic tribe. Also named : Rashaayda, Bani. Migrated from Saudi Arabia ; still wearing traditional clothes & jewels, raising camels (November 1994).
Dankalia. In Dallol : Afars extracting slabs of salt & camel caravans loaded with salt ; awesome ! (March 2006).
Also named : Danakils. Traditionally pastoralists, raising goats, sheep, and cattle; Also met in Eritrean side of Dankalia in Eritrea (November 1994).
Arba Minch & Sagan River area. Traditional round dwellings around the 'generation mast', tombs with phallic images (December 1987).
Between Weito & Omo Valleys. Traditional herders with villages surrounded by thorny branches for protection (December 1987).
Omo Valley. Women wearing skirts with metal pieces & iron rings, elaborate hair dressing. Young women wear a strange metal cap peak (December 1987).
Omo Valley. Huts covered with branches & animal skins (December 1987).
Omo Valley. Women with multicolored collars (December 1987).
Omo Valley.Round straw huts. Young girls wear long ear rings. Women wear elaborate collars (December 1987).
Omo Valley. The most well known tribe with women with lip plates (January 1988).
Fouta Djalon plateau. Doucky & Lélouma Bamboo ladders. Decorated Peuls dwellings (January 2006).
I also met Peuls in Mali, Niger (the Woodaabe branch & their courtship ritual ; see below) & Ivory Coast.
East & North (Danane, Man & Touba). Also named : Dan. Vatouo Liana bridge. Still very traditional villages (Godufuma, Silakoro …). Saw a stilt dance (March 2017).
North (Odienne). Traditional hunters fraternity, mainly Malinke. Wearing a brown suit & gris-gris amulets. Saw a night ritual dance (March 2017).
North (Korhogo, Kong). Very traditional villages (Niofoin, Landa …). Sacrificial sites & idol huts. Saw an initiation dance (Poro) (March 2017).
Southeast. Agni (Anyi) branch : saw a ritual dance of trance and possession by 'Komian' priestesses all clad in white, supposed to cure illnesses (near Abengourou) & met the King of Sanwi Kingdom (in Krindjabo) (March 2017).
Rift Valley (South of Lake Turkana) Semi-nomadic pastoralists. A sub tribe of the Maasai (March 2018)
Also met in Tanzanie (March 2018)
Betioky-Ampamihy area (South). Known for large tombs built to honor dead chiefs topped by wooden sculptures and heaps of zebu horns (May 1998).
Southwestern coast (S of Toliara). Semi-nomadic coastal people with traditional fishing pirogues (May 1998).
Bandiagara cliff. Known for their religious traditions, their mask dances, wooden sculpture and their architecture (March 1981).
Adrar. Nomadic people (March 2004).
Kaokoland. Himbas cover themselves with a brown paste. Women are nude except for a tiny calfskin skirt (July 1991).
Ténéré. Exceptional (disappearing) : semi-annual salt caravan ('azalei') (March 2007).
Touaregs also met in other countries : Libya (Libyan desert) (January 1996), Algeria (Hoggar & Tassili N'Ajjer) (February 1987) ...
Ténéré southern edge (Agadez area). Wodaabe Fula (Peuls Bororo) with an annual courtship ritual competition ('Guéréwol') (magic & exceptional) (October 2004).
Kedougou area (Southeast). Traditional thatched round dwellings (March 1986).
Interesting masked danses (Kambama, Moa River region) (January 2018).
Larim (=Boya, = Longarim)
Boya Mountains (Eastern Equatoria State). Very traditional tribe, noteworthy for the architecture of their huts and their women attire (March 2020).
Lotuko (= Otuho)
Imatong Mountains. Nilotic group with spectacular villages clung on the slopes of the mountains (March 2020).
Central Equatorial State : nilotic tribe of cattle herders and warriors, living and sleeping among their herds, their body being covered with burnt dung ashes against mosquitoes (March 2020).
Eastern Equatoria State (near Uganda & Kenya borders) : amazing ethnic group, completely preserved, outstanding for its culture (women necklaces, bracelets, scarifications ..) and its villages (huts decorated with ostrich eggs, granaries on piles) (March 2020).
West of Lake Natron. Small tribe often fighting the Masaïs ; the villages differ (entrance of dwellings made of trunks …) (October 2004).
Northwest. Well-known semi nomadic people of herders (October 2004).
Cauca (Silvia area). Also named Misak. Still wearing a blue and black outfit & black bowler hat (February 2010).
Lake Titicaca. On floating islands made of ' totoras' (still ok in 1979, it is now a real shameful 'human zoo') (July 1979).
Descendants of slaves who escaped in the forests & now live in small villages with animistic shrines (September 2014).
Chakma (Rangamati district), Tripura (Bandarban district), Murong (= Mru, Ambu Village, Rangamati district), Manipuri (Ramnagar region), Khasia (Sylhet district) (January 2009).
North (close to Tibet). Women wear a small bamboo conical hat topped by a stylised stupa (Laya, highest village in Bhutan) (October 2015).
Fujian (Yongding area). Hakka are known for the ' tulous' where they live. A 'tulou' is a large, enclosed and fortified earth building, rectangular or circular in configuration, with very thick load-bearing rammed earth walls between 3 and 5 stories high and housing up to 800 people (tulou clusters seen : Nanxi, Hong Keng, Gāo Běi, Yuchang Lou, Tianluokeng, Chuxi, Hua'an Dadi, Yongding) (December 2011).
Guizhou. Also named : Kam. An important people renowned for its unique architecture, in particular their drum towers & their covered bridges known as the 'wind and rain bridges'. Costumes worn for festivals & special
events are awesome ! (October 2002).
Guizhou. Miaos wear also particularly impressive costumes for festivals & special events. Miaos belong to the same ethnic group named Hmong in Vietnam (October 2002).
Yunnan (Lake Lugu area). Small ethnic group, close to Tibet border, practicing a shamanism influenced by Tibetan buddhism. Society is mostly matriarchal : women often head the household, inheritance is through females, but men have the political power. Mosuo dances are spectacular (March 2005).
Yunnan (Lake Lugu area). Also named : Naxi, Nakhi. Large ethnic group, having its own writing (March 2005).
Yunnan (Dali & Lijiang areas). Also named : Lolo in Vietnam (Ninglang) (March 2005).
Yunnan (Dali area). Clothes are predominently white. Practicing buddhism & a native religion (benzhuism) (Xizhou) (March 2005).
Arunachal Pradesh (Tawang area). A large Buddhist people of Tibetan origin. They wear the Tibetan 'chuba' & headdress made of yak hair (October 2003).
Arunachal Pradesh (Ziro area). Also named : Hill Miri. Men wear a headdress with a hornbill beak (often replaced by beak of another bird) (October 2003).
Arunachal Pradesh (Ziro area). Women are tattooed and have wooden nose plugs. Buffalo horns on houses walls (Hong, Hari, Bamen) (October 2003).
Arunachal Pradesh (Along area). With subgroups : Gallong, Miniyong. Hill villages of bamboo huts raised on stilts (Kabu Dulom, Yeksi) (October 2003).
Arunachal Pradesh (Along area). A tribe quite similar to the Adi (Dulom) (October 2003).
Arunachal Pradesh (Roing area). Subgroup : Idu Mishmi. Large enormous bamboo & wooden longhouses (October 2003).
Arunachal Pradesh (Namsai area). Houses built on raised floors with very low thatched roofs. Men are usually tattooed (October 2003).
Arunachal Pradesh (E of Tezu). Buddhist & animist tribe. Oval houses. Most people tie their hair in a large knot on the crown of the head (October 2003).
Gujrat (Vadodara area). Hindu & animist tribe. Houses covered with 'Pithoro' paintings. Near villages : oratories with terracotta animals (Gondariya, Chhota Udaipur market) (October 2003).
Gujrat (Rann of Kutch). Nomadic hindu tribe. They are camel herders and also raise sheep and goats (January 2013).
Himachal Pradesh (Kinnaur). Mixed hindu-buddhist religion. Traditional villages remarkable for tall tower-shaped wooden shrines (June 2009).
Jammu and Kashmir (Zanskar). Ladakhis & Zanskaris are Tibetan in their culture and religion (Feb. 2004) (August 1978).
Jammu and Kashmir (Ladakh). Ladakhis & Zanskaris are Tibetan in their culture and religion (Feb. 2004) (August 1978).
Manipur (Ukhrul area). Traditional houses with human skulls sculptured on the walls & buffalo skulls (Hungpung, Longpi, Numgbi) (November 2015).
Meghalaya. War subgroup is famous for building 'living' root bridges', even a 'double decker' one (Nongriat area) (November 2015).
Nagaland. During 4 days in Kohima, I attended the Hornbill Festival : cultural shows, mainly dances of North East India peoples, by Nagaland tribes : Konyak, Ao, Angami, Kuki, Lotha, Yimchunger, Rengma, Garo, Pochury, Sumi, Zeliang, Kachari, Chang, Chakhesang, Sangtam, Phom, Khamniungan (November 2015).
Nagaland (Mon area). Traditional villages with thatched longhouses, especially the headman's longhouse, full of buffalo skulls. They were headhunters ; they still keep (and show) human skulls (Longwa, Sheanghah Chingnyu, Old Mon) (November 2015).
Nagaland (Mokokchung area). In their village : log drum & 'jendong' (a 'cloud scrapping' pole supposed to make a link with the gods) (Ungwa) (November 2015).
Nagaland (Kohima area). In the middle of the villages, are the 'morung' (kind of bachelor's dormitory for the youth & for meetings) (Khonoma) (November 2015).
Odisha (Bhubaneswar). During 3 days in Bhubaneswar, I attended the 'Adivasi Mela' : cultural shows, mainly dances, of Odisha (January 2014).
Odisha (Rayagada area). Women wear a white sari with a red stripe, have anklets on ankles, their nose is pierced by 3 rings & they have hairpins and a small knife in their hair (Chatikona market) (January 2014).
Odisha (Rayagada area). Women smoke cigars ; their nose is pierced by 2 rings with a stone in between (Phuokan, Chatikoha market) (January 2014).
Odisha (Jeypore area). Women wear several rings around their neck and big collars covering their naked breast (Onkadelli market) (January 2014).
Flores (Ruteng). Men wearing black sarong. Traditional thatched houses (June 1983).
Flores (Bajawa area). Megalithic tomb-like structures & houses with high thatched -roofs (Bena & others) (June 1983).
Flores (Ende area). Tribe with famous Keli Mutu lakes & volcano nearby (June 1983).
Kalimantan. Former headhunters. Still traditional houses (1982).
Nias. Fascinating megalithic culture. Villages with rows of ship-like wooden houses with 'stone jumping' stones (August 1980).
Papua (Southeast forest). First contact with outsiders occurred in March 1974. There are still a population of about 4,000. The majority of the Korowai live in small basic tree houses, as high as 35 meters above the ground, a way to prevent rival clans from capturing people for cannibalism or slavery. Cannibalism is not practiced anymore where contact with the outside world has already occurred. The Korowai are hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists who practice shifting cultivation. They have also excellent hunting and fishing skills (July 2002).
Papua (Baliem Valley). Dani were only sighted in 1938 from an airplane ! In 1976, when I was there, everything was still unchanged. A fascinating trip back to stone age, involving a lot of trekking !
Dani males are famous for wearing just a penis gourd ('koteka'), while women are naked with just a skirt made of grass. Their culture is centered on sweet potato cultivation & pig breeding (some Dani women still
breast-feed hungry piglets !!). Rarely now, ritual small-scale warfare between groups may occur (September 1976).
Sulawesi. Bugis are rice farmers, traders or fishermen and live in stilted houses mainly only the coast (August 1976).
Sulawesi. Traditional villages with high thatched-roof houses. Famous for their death rituals (August 2004, August 1976).
Sumatra (Padang area). Notable for the architecture of the villages : ship-shaped longhouses (August 1980).
Sumatra (Lake Toba area). Notable for the architecture of the villages : a row of large ship-shaped houses facing a row of granaries (August 1980).
Sumba. Villages consisting of two rows of high thatched-roofs houses with 'spirit' stones in the middle.NFamous ikat weaving. Visited before Pasola (a 'mock battle' festival) (February 1984).
Boloven plateau. Very traditional. Coffins under houses. Everybody including small children smoking water pipes (Ban Kok Pung) (November 1997).
West of Khövsgöl lake. After trekking a few days in the taïga to find them, I spent a few days living with them in one of their camps. Less than 300 people remain. Tsaatans (also called Dukhans) are nomadic reindeer herders in the taïga. Their camps usually include two to seven tents for just a few households. They move camp to find optimum grazing for their reindeer. They live in yurts made of birch bark and reindeer hide that resemble the tepees
of Native-Americans. They wear traditional Mongolian overcoats ('deels') and have strong and warm boots fashioned from the hides and sinew of their reindeer. They practice Shamanism (September October 2007).
Bulgan. Camel herders (fringes of Gobi desert). Seen at the winter 1000 camels festival.
Attended the 1st haircut of a child (a major event in someone's life) (February 2006).
Chin State (Mindat area). Face tatooed women ; large tall tombstones in front of dwellings. A strange custom : reciprocal feeding (Aye, Kyador, Lupe, Panoh) (January 2007).
Chin State (Mindat area). Face tattooed women with very large earrings (January 2007).
Rakhine State (Arakan) (N of Mrauk U). Also named : Thet. Traditional tribe whose women have particular big earrings (January 2007).
Lay Too Chin
Rakhine State (Arakan) (N of Mrauk U). Old women still have unique and interesting facial tatoos, many like a spider (Sankay, Pan Paung) (January 2007).
Shan state. Women with a black blouse, a red skirt & a belt made up of metal rings (Wan Pauk) (January 2007).
Shan state. Large & very colorful minority. Women are noted for their headdresses decorated with silver coins, monkey fur, and dyed chicken feathers (Ho Lap & many other villages) (January 2007).
Shan state. Small buddhist minority, used to be involved in the opium cultivation, as other tribes (Naung Cho) (January 2007).
Shan state. Women are known for their black teeth (they believe black teeth are attractive and chew tree bark and betel nut to darken them) (Wan Lin, Nam Lin Mai, Paung Lea) (January 2007).
Lahu shi (Yellow Lahu)
Shan state. Remote tribe, also with traditional outfit. Young girls put on a pink make up on their face (Ponk Kar, Pang Piak) (January 2007).
Lahu na (Black Lahu)
Shan state. Remote tribe. Women wear black blouses and skirts often with red sripes & a black turban (Hoi Pon) (January 2007).
Shan state. They live in longhouses shared by several families (Wan Nyet) (January 2007).
Tsum Valley (next to Ganesh Himal). People of Tibetan origin living in a remote valley close to Tibet (October November 2013).
Southeast (Teraï). Hindu tribe (also in India) famous for its houses decorated with paintings inspired from Ramayana (October 2012).
Eastern Nepal (Taplejung area). People of Tibetan origin (also visited in Sikkim) (October 2012).
Eastern Nepal (Kanchenjunga area). Also named : Rong. Buddhist people also encountered in Sikkim (October 2012).
Northwest of Kathmandu. Very traditional villages such as Gatlang (Tamang Heritage Trail) (October 2011).
Helambu (North of Kathmandu)Buddhist people met on the way to the sacred Gosainkund lakes (October 2011).
Dhaulagiri range & Kali Gandaki areas. A buddhist people with still shamanism practices. In high altitude villages, traditional outfits are still worn (November 2009).
Solukhumbu (Namche Bazar area). Well-known ethnic group of Tibetan origin (October November 2006).
Dolpo. Buddhist people in a remote region next to Tibet, one of the very few with a truly authentic Tibetan culture (September October 2005).
Mustang. A very ancient kingdom with a strong Tibetan culture, which I visited just when it was open to foreigners (April May 1983).
Pokhara & Annapurna range areas. One of the most important ethnic group in Nepal with still traditional villages ; still retaining its customs (April 1977 & others).
Kali Gandaki valley. Mostly buddhists, this ethnic group is now losing its traditions (April 1977 & others).
Very traditional people residing in the Chitral District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province (Northwestern Pakistan, near Afghanistan). When not converted to islam, they practice an ancient Indo-Aryan religion, somehow a form of ancient Hinduism (May 2018).
Very famous people living in Hunza valleys (Baltistan, Northern Pakistan). They were known to live well over 100 years ... (May 2018).
Luzon : Also named : Ifugaos. Former headhunters, they are now famous for their rice terraces at Banaue (December 1981).
Sulu Archipelago (Jolo Island). Also named : Badjaos. These 'Sea Gypsies' or 'Sea Nomads', dwelling on their small wooden boats, are nomadic & seafaring people, living off the sea by trading and subsistence fishing (April 1982).
Sakha Republic (Iakutia) : Still partly nomadic & practicing reindeer herding. At Topolinoe : saw the annual Even Reindeer herders festival (March April 2014).
Yamalo-Nenets Okrug : A fantastic experience : I spent one week in a Nenets camp. A large proportion of the Nenets people is still nomadic (March April 2008).
I participated in their transhumance when they move their camp.
Tchoukotka : Still often practicing subsistence hunting & reindeer herding ; living in 'Yarangas' (rounded reindeer-hide tent) (July 2005).
Kamtchatka : Still often practicing subsistence hunting & reindeer herding ; living in 'Chums' (conical reindeer-hide tent) (August 2001).
Taïwan (Orchid Island)
Also named : Tao. With unique semi-subterranean dwellings (March 1983).
Very special houses on stilts (September 2004).
Vietnam (Provinces adjoining Chinese & lao borders)
Wear a black shirt, a long dress with a blue or orange belt & silver necklaces (Ban La, Tasa, Ban Lien) (April May 2008).
Wear indigo headscarf, shirt, pants, and belt & wear silver necklaces (Ban Pan, Ban Ho) (April May 2008).
Also named : Lu. One of the most backward minority in Vietnam (near Binh Lu, Tamduong weekly market) (April May 2008).
All in black with a lot of necklaces (Phugsen, Can Cau weekly market, Muong Khuong weekly market) (April May 2008).
A small but colourful minority (Yi in China) (Coc Xa, Bao Lac market) (April May 2008).
Red turban together with chunky silver jewelry (Nam Det, Ta Phin, Tham Phu, Sin Chai, Tamduong weekly market) (April May 2008).
Black turban together with chunky silver jewelry (Na That, Nam Det) (April May 2008).
Yao subgroup (April May 2008).
Man Ta Pan
Yao subgroup (April May 2008).
Very colorful muticolored clothes. All Hmongs subgroups encountered in villages & markets :
Coc Ly weekly market, Can Cau weekly market, Ban Pho, Ban Lau weekly market, Muong Khuong weekly market (April May 2008).
Wear a mostly green outfit with round metal pieces (Bao Lac market) (April May 2008).
Women wear a white blouse (Dongvan market) (April May 2008).
Wear a mostly red outfit with round metal pieces (Muong Lum) (April May 2008).
Wear a mostly black outfit with round metal pieces (Meovac market & others, Suoi Ho, Matra, Mongsen) (April May 2008).
Women wear a bizarre headdress in metal with a large needle (Bao Lac market, Khuoi Doc) (April May 2008).
Small minority. Women headdress is a black cloth wrapped in the shape of a cylinder (Meovac market, My Bac) (April May 2008).
Women wear dark blue / black trousers with a red stripe (Boc Ban, Ban Lau weekly market, Tavan) (April May 2008).
Also named : Xa Pho. Women wear a blue outfit, with a large stripe (near Lào Cai, Ban Lau weekly market) (April May 2008).
Môn khmer minority. Women wear blouses embroidered with coins and snail shells (near Pa Tan) (April May 2008).
Hadramaut (South Yemen) : Women are all in black abaya and wear conical straw hats ('madhalla') shaped like witches' hats (November 1988).
Pacific Ocean & Australia
Oenpolli region in Arnhem Land (Northern Territory) (June 2018).
Aboriginal people living in Bathurst Island (Northern Territory) (June 2018).
Tribes met in Sing Sing
Goroka : Each year, a 'sing sing' (in traditional outfit, masked dances …) is held in the Highlands with men & women from the main tribes : Asaro ('mudmen'), 'Hewa, Huli, Abelam, Mendi, Foi, Enga, Telefomin, Kaluli, Simbu, Yangoru, Kominimung, Biami, Morehead, Bilibil, Melpa, Huli, Gogodala … (August 1982).
Downstream Sepik River : Exceptional carvings. Large common dwellings & spirit houses ('Haus Tambaran') (August 1982).
Highlands (around Lake Kopiago) : Also named : Yuna (August 1982).
Highlands (Tari) : One of the most famous tribes of PNG, also named : 'wigmen'. Men wear a headdress made of human hair (August 1982).
New Britain Island : Saw a secret ritual dance : invoking the male spirit 'duk duk' and female spirit 'tubuan' (August 1982).
Trobriand Islands. A fascinating place described by Malinovski : a melanesian people with strong customs, practicing free love & living in traditional huts facing granaries where they keep taro they consider as sacred (August 1982).
Malekula Island : Name of these 2 tribes derives from 'namba' which is a traditional penis sheath (Big Nambas have a large one). Villages have sacrificial squares. Saw very interesting dances (September 2002).
Malekula Island : Name of these 2 tribes derives from 'namba' which is a traditional penis sheath (Small Nambas have a smaller one). Villages have sacrificial squares. Saw very interesting dances (September 2002).