Arunachal Pradesh is the land of Tribes, comprising of 26 Major tribes and 110 subgroups.
The main tribes can be named as Adi, Aka, Apatam, Khamba, Mishim, Miji, Communions, Hill Miri, Mikir, Memba, Mishing, Moopa, Na, Tangsa, Sherdukpen, Subeng, Singpho, Socte, Tism, Khowa, Tagin, Wangcho, Zobarings along with other 125 sub-tribes (approximately) among themselves.
People are honest, simple-living and most of the tribes are largely dependent of the forests of the State. Arunachal Pradesh is the least populated state of India. Central economy of the people revolves round the forest and cultivation. Rice, Maize, Millets, Wheat, Potato, Pulses, Sugarcane and Oilseeds are their major produce.
The forest dependency of people here is very high and the land and forest belongs to the communities.
Their life cycle revolves around the forests. One way they are protecting their land and on the other way they consuming their living from here.
Mishmi Hills is situated at the North-Eastern Tip of India consisting of two parts, one is Bramhaputra Flood Plains and other one is Snow Capped Mountains with lower Himalayan ranges and Shivalik ranges. This hilly area is characterised by steeply sloping landform, sub-tropical evergreen forest and high rainfall. Much of these hills fall in the Dibang valley. They are also a part of Shan-Malaysia plate. The major tribe residing here is Mishmis, which have three sub-tribes namely Idu, Taraon (Digaru) and Kaman (Miju).
Idu-Mishmis are traditionally connected with the Forest and they believe in the Spirits within their natural surroundings. Their origins are recorded to be migrated from Tibet, first to come was Idus, followed by Digarus and lastly by the Mijus. This is one of the oldest ethnic groups of the state. Their life is dependent upon agriculture. Sifting cultivation is one of the major ways of agriculture though wet-rice cultivation system is largely adopted in the lower Dibang valley. Rice, Maize,Millet, Buckwheat, vegetables and occasional fruit gardens comprising Orange, kiwi and Plum are their main produce.
The older generations of this tribe were acting as strong conservationist based on their traditional beliefs. The Concept of flagship species while conserving wildlife and its habitat were in their traditional practice since they settled in these lands. There are few wildlife species with whom these beliefs are associated. Unlike present days hunting has always been a serious and traditional practice for them. They used to follow lots of rituals before going into hunting. There is a lot of preparation before hunting. Hunters stay at home to prevent any untoward incidence during hunting. They avoid attending funerals, eating mushrooms and avoid food cooked by women who are menstruating.
Hoolock Gibbon is one species which is not hunted at all. Sighting of this species is treated as bad omen and people stay as far away as they can from this species. Locally it is known as Aame Epaan. Hunters don’t even take its name during night or while going for hunting. This Taboo is keeping this species safe and even keeping the surrounding bio-diversity safe. Where ever these species are seen, immediately hunters leave that place closing their hunting session unfinished.
Another major species is Royal Bengal Tiger. Traditionally they treated this species as their big brother and hunting a Tiger is a great sin as this species is regarded very highly as their elder brother and the hunter who does it accidently has to go through a restriction period of five nights. During this period the person who has hunted a Tiger will have to spend 5 nights without food, water and weapon in the middle of the forest. Anyone who helped in the hunting or seen consuming Tiger meet also have to follow this 5 days restriction period.
Another animal Yellow Throated Matren locally known as Aakonkon also carried bad omen for the hunters and they don’t like to have sight of this animal in the course of hunting. They believe it makes their hunting un-successful once they have a sight during hunting. Again, most of the time Black-Panthers (Aamrama) are left alone by the hunters as they rated it very dangerous with a belief that it carries Tiger over its back. They traditionally avoids killing of wildlife within village area. Wild animals entering in the villages are treated as bad omen and they never killed them within the villages. They believe that hunting should be done in the forests only.
Apart from these the traditional hunting practise carries very strict rules and these set of rules makes it difficult for random killing or hunting of wild animals in Mishmi Hills. During the hunting trip, hunters follow a set of ‘moral code’ of conduct, as getting angry, abusing or cursing someone, swearing should be strictly avoided. Hunting is considered a very risky activity, therefore no jokes or ridiculing someone is against the rules. If proper conduct is not followed, then hunters may face major accidents or sudden illness during the trip. Post hunting activities carries strict set of rules and restrictions.
Hunters will have to avoid eating onion (elompran), garlic (eloni), mushroom (akupi), a herb called marsana and fermented soyabean (aadulo chhin). These are delicacies and staying away from eating them is always hard for them. Successful Hunters will have to stay in a separate room and sex is forbidden. Food, even water and tea prepared by women who are menstruating is avoided. Thus, these restrictions have been imposed upon them on random hunting. Successful hunters cannot attend any funerals. They even can’t wash their cloths. These entire practises are followed for 5 days post hunting.
Going for hunting after a wedding ceremony or a major ritual at home is avoided. During such events, there are ceremonial sacrifices (pigs and mithuns) and therefore while there is meat still at home, it is not advisable to kill wild animals or bring fresh wild meat to home.
Rapid modernisation and introduction of Christianity in those places have killed most of the traditional value of people. They originally followed Sun God (Dony) and Moon Goddess (Polo) but the new generations are more Christianity believers. Education helped them to get rid of these traditional practices which are carrying threat to the Wildlife. The discipline, that the ancestors had followed in the hunting practices are slowly going away. Now most of the new generation are doing hunting as game and for fun irrespective of whether they have to hunt an animal down for necessary food or not. Most conservationist have beliefs that lack of education and awareness are the major reason in these areas behind habitat degradation and random wildlife Killing. But if we see through the ancient eras and traditional practices they knew how to put impose on unnecessary consumption or killing of their food source. There are lot that we need to learn from these traditional practices which will help us to serve better in the field of wildlife conservation.