Nine tribal facts for August 9th

Korowai man and child, Papua. Tribal people in New Guinea were some of the world’s earliest farmers. © Survival

Tuesday August 9th 2011 is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. This special day was first proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1994, to be celebrated every year during the first International Decade of the World's Indigenous People from 1995 to 2004.

In 2004, the Assembly proclaimed a Second International Decade, from 2005 to 2015, with the theme of 'A Decade for Action and Dignity.'

As Survival International's Director Stephen Corry, says, "This annual UN day is an important chance for the world to recognize tribal people and their right to survival and self-determination."

To mark the day, and to help spread an understanding of, and respect for, tribal peoples and their astonishing contribution to the diversity of mankind, Survival has put together nine facts about the world's tribal peoples:

  1. There are over 100 uncontacted tribes in the world. Some live less than 100km from Machu Picchu, Peru’s biggest tourist attraction.
  2. Tribal people in the Baliem valley of New Guinea probably developed agriculture long before the ancestors of Europeans.
  3. The Moken ‘sea gypsies’ of the Andaman Sea have developed the unique ability to focus under water, in order to dive for food. The eyesight of Moken children is 50% more powerful than that of European children.
  4. The Sentinelese tribe is thought to have lived on the Andaman Islands for about 55,000 years.
  5. One in every 6 languages spoken on the planet comes from New Guinea.
  6. Tribal peoples developed some of the world’s staple foods. Manioc (cassava), maize and potatoes are all the product of indigenous husbandry.
  7. Hadza hunters in Tanzania use the song of an African bird to guide them to bees’ nests in baobab trees.
  8. Awá women in Brazil care for orphaned baby monkeys by suckling them.
  9. The language of the Bolivian Kallawaya healers, still spoken today, is believed to be the secret language of the Inca Kings.

Survival has also come up with nine more facts - and has created links from the facts to more info on the tribes and stories mentioned.

See how you can get involved at or follow Survival on Twitter or on Facebook.

Visit for more about the day and decade of awareness-raising.

Visit to find out more about the UN's work on behalf of Indigenous Peoples.

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