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These 17 Tribes Are Some Of The Most Secluded, Interesting People On The Planet

MARCH 2, 2015  —  By Bryan Galligan  

Bryan Galligan

Bryan Galligan is a writer and musician living in Brooklyn, New York. He is interested in literature, music, pop culture, and all the incredible happenings going on around the world.

You've heard of the Incas and Mayans, but what about the Samburu or the Yali?

Jimmy Nelson is an internationally renowned photographer who travels all over the world capturing rare places, people, and things that often go unseen by the general public. For his most recent project, Nelson explored various remote regions, documenting diverse tribes and peoples. Nelson hoped to learn about their cultures and how their lifestyles and livelihoods are being threatened by the outside world.

The project, titled "Before They Pass Away," aims to shine a light on the vast number of civilizations that make up our world, ideally fostering a better appreciation for cultural and social diversity.

1. Kazakh

This semi-nomadic tribe, whose ancestors lived in the area between the Black Sea and Siberia, travel with their herds throughout western Mongolia.

2. Samburu

This tribe, which relies primarily on cattle for its livelihood, first traveled to northern Kenya 500 years ago. The Samburu remain in the region, but continue their nomadic tradition, relocating every 5 to 6 weeks.

3. Huli

The Huli are a tribe in Papua New Guinea. The Huli wigmen are known for creating elaborate wigs fashioned from their own locks.

4. Himba

Living largely in the same fashion since the 16th century, this tribe of herders continues to live in an extremely hostile environment in northern Namibia.

This is a traditional Himba headdress.

5. Asaro

The Asaro tribe, located in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, was isolated from the outside world for thousands of years. In order to give themselves a ghostly appearance, they cover their bodies in grayish mud, which, according to tradition, strikes fear in enemies.

6. Yali

This tribe inhabits the Baliem Valley in the Jayawijaya Mountain range of Papua, Indonesia. The Yali, or "Lords of the Earth," share similar traditions to other tribes indigenous to the Papuan region, such as polygamy and rituals of gift exchange.

7. Rabari

It is believed that this group migrated to the plains and deserts of western India from the Iranian Plateau over a millennium ago. While the men tend to the herds, the women are responsible for handling money and managing the villages.

8. Maori

This once-isolated culture has its own unique art, language, and mythology that developed since its origins in the 13th century. Even with their contact with Europe in the 18th century, the Maori have still been able to preserve much of their traditional way of life.

9. Vanuatu

Ceremonies and dance are very important to this tribe, located in the Vanuatu Islands. One festival, called the Toka Festival, is a symbol of a friendly alliance between different indigenous groups.

10. Tibetans

This ethnic group is made up of the descendants of aboriginal and nomadic Qiang tribes. Tibetan beliefs involve numerous symbolic traditions and practices coming out of the ancient shamanist Bon religion.

11. Chukchi

Interestingly, the Chukchi are the only native group in Siberia to never have been conquered by the Russians. Inhabiting the Chukotka Peninsula, they have endured through weapons testing, pollution, and destruction perpetrated by the Soviet Union.

12. Kalam

This small agrarian tribe is another group in the Papua New Guinea highlands. Wigs, masks, and face paint are worn to intimidate other enemy tribes in the region.

13. Gauchos

These nomadic horsemen first arose in the 18th century and began hunting Cimarron cattle, which roamed through different regions in South America. The Gaucho, or "Free Spirit," is threatened by the increasingly commercialized cattle trade.

14. Tsaatan

Moving 5 to 10 times per year, this nomadic tribe of reindeer herders inhabits a remote subarctic boreal forest. The 44 families that still remain in the group fully rely on a dwindling population of unique, domesticated reindeer.

15. Loba

The Loba people share much of their cultural history with Tibet, and until about 1991, no outsiders were allowed in Mustang. Due to their secluded history, according to Nelson, many "still believe that the world is flat, illness is caused by evil spirits and monks heal diseases with exorcisms."

16. Ladakhi

The Ladakhi people of northern India farm for 4 months out of the year, spending the 8 winter months doing little work and holding celebrations and festivals.

17. Drokpa

This tribe is markedly different from others that inhabit Ladakh. They have a unique language, culture, and social structure, along with beautifully ornate garb that is expressive of their character.

This is an incredible project that can certainly do a lot to help the world see the diverse ways people have and continue to live. Check out the official website for the project here. If you'd like to see more of Nelson's work, his book documents the incredible project in more detail.