Definition of Tribe
The word ‘tribe’ conveys a neutral sense, a primary aggregate of people claiming descent from a common ancestor. The word ‘tribe’ has been a technical administrative term to denote aborigines. Tribes are regarded as the indigenous or autochthonous population of Indian subcontinent.
Modern usage of this term suggests that it is a small-scale social grouping that displays some form of cultural unity. The members recognize a close affinity towards one another.
A tribe is large enough to be a visible group and small enough to be mobilized for common action. Being cut off from the main stream of Indian life, they usually live in forests and hills and develop a different world view suited to their particular ecology. Eminent Sociologist [G.A. Mitchell (1979)] described ‘tribe’ as a ‘socially cohesive unit, associated with a territory, the members of which regard themselves as politically autonomous.
To an administrator, the term ‘tribe’ means a group of citizens who are the special responsibility of the President of India. To an anthropologist, it means a special field for a study of a social phenomenon. These tribal groups are presumed to form the oldest ethnological sect [sic] and therefore they are called ‘Adhivasis’ [Adivasi]. But the Constitution of India designates them as “Scheduled Tribe”.
A tribe has a sense of identify based on common language and culture. A tribe shows no system of writing and lacks the specialized division of labour. A tribe is associated with a definite territory and possesses a well-defined political boundary.
Source: Thulasi Brinda in “IRULA TRIBE OF DENKANIKOTTAI FOREST OF KRISHNAGIRI DISTRICT IN TAMIL NADU”, “Museum’s Journal”, Chennai Museum (October 2003 – September 2004), pp. 143
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“We shall first have to give up this hubris of considering tribes backward. Every tribe has a rich and living cultural tradition and we must respect them.” – Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu on the constitutional obligation to respect the cultural traditions of India’s tribal communities
“Air is free to all but if it is polluted it harms our health… Next comes water… From now on we must take up the effort to secure water. Councillors are servants of the people and we have a right to question them.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi, Ahmedabad address on 1 January 1918; quoted by his grandson, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, in “On another New Year’s Day: Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘khorak’ a 100 years ago” (The Hindu, 1 January 2018)
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Search tips: in the search field seen below, combine the name of any particular state, language or region with that of any tribal (Adivasi) community; add keywords of special interest (health, nutrition endangered language, illegal mining, sacred grove); learn about the rights of Scheduled Tribes such as the Forest Rights Act (FRA); and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, women’s rights, and children’s right to education; specify any other issue or news item you want to learn more about (biodiversity, climate change, ecology, economic development, ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, global warming, effective measures to prevent rural poverty, bonded labour, and human trafficking).
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“Since the Indian Constitution uses the term ‘Scheduled Tribes’ or ‘tribals’ to refer to indigenous communities in India and the colloquial reference used by several indigenous communities themselves is ‘adivasis’ these two terms shall be used interchangeably.” – Rebecca S . David in “An analysis of the impact of the Forest Rights Act (2006) in three states of India” (MPhil University of Cambridge, UK, 2014), p. 1 | Learn more | Classifications in different states >>
- Adverse inclusion | Casteism | Childhood | Rural poverty
- Demographic Status of Scheduled Tribe Population of India (Census figures 2011)
- Denotified Tribes, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes – Report and Recommendations (Technical Advisory Group)
- Fact checking | Figures, census and other statistics
- Human Rights Commission (posts) | www.nhrc.nic.in (Government of India)
- Imprisonment & rehabilitation
- Search tips | Names of tribal communities, regions and states of India
- State wise population of Scheduled Tribes (ST) and their percentage to the total population in the respective states and to the total STs population
- “What are the Rights of Scheduled Tribes? – Government of India (National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, NCST)
- “What is the Forest Rights Act about?” – Campaign for Survival and Dignity
- “Who are Scheduled Tribes?” – Government of India (National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, NCST)