ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Nomenclature of North East India

Clans, Tribes and Unions of Tribes

The people of North East India are often identified by the outside world on the basis of the nomenclature associated with their clans, tribes and union of tribes. Yet, contrary to popular belief, this notion of “oneness” asserted by people embracing a particular nomenclature does not imply a common language or culture. Far from tribal or ethnic identity corresponding to linguistic or cultural identity, this notion of oneness arises out of a shared history or common political aspirations.

North East India is one of the most diverse regions of the world in terms of ethnolinguistic diversity, which is reflected in the vast nomenclature of the region. For the purpose of our present exposition, the nomenclature of the people of North East India may be broadly categorised in three hierarchical levels.

The highest level is where a union of tribes comes together under a larger nomenclature, often loosely termed an ethnic group. Second is the community of clans, which together form the tribal nomenclature. The lowest level is where a group of families comes together under a single clan. In most parts of the hill states of North East India, a person’s identity is determined by their membership within these three nomenclature levels. While a person’s membership in their clan is well defined by their family lineage, there is no such well-defined criterion or set of criteria for one’s membership in a tribe or ethnic group. A common language and culture, often considered the strongest determinants of “oneness,” do not really matter for one’s membership in a tribe or ethnic group.

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Updated On : 31st Aug, 2018

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