Andamanese belongs to a family, which belongs to a sept, which belongs a tribe,
which belongs to a group of tribes or divisions of the race. The first two of
these are recognized by the people. They are twelve tribes in three groups. They
are Northern or Yerewa group, Southern or Bojnji group and outer group or the
Onge Jaraa tribes. All the tribes inhabit in the Great Andaman, except the
Balwaa of the Archipelago, the Onge of the Little Andaman, and the Jarawa of the
North Sentinel and parts of the south Andaman and Rutland Islands. Each group
has certain salient characteristics like the form of the huts, bows and arrows,
and canoes, of ornamentation, female's clothing, hair dressing and utensils, of
tattooing and of language being common generally to the group.
The Nicobarese can be treated as one people whose affinities are towards the
Far Eastern and not towards the mainland races. Their own idea of themselves is
that they came from the Tenasserim coast, an idea borne out by Physical
structure, social habits, trend of civilization and language. They are of the
highest ethnological interest.
The tribal feeling is friendly within the tribe and hostile to every
stranger. The once custom that has served to make the various septs of a tribe
hang together is that of a very free adoption of each others children, only
those under six or seven usually living with their parents.
Hunting and honey collection are men's job and the women and children collect
roots and tubers. There is a high degree of individual freedom among
the sexes and monogamy is the rule. Husband-wife and parent-children relationships
are based on mutual respect and deep affection.
Small local groups are constituted by a number of primary families with a
close sense of mutual social obligations. During heavy rains they share a common
beehive-shaped communal hut but in the warmer days a series of small huts
provide shelter. Leadership is acquired and maintained by qualities like
generosity, skill at hunting and other work and wisdom based on age and experience. They have a rich collection of myths and songs sung when dancing or at work.
The Andamanese are a standing puzzle to ethnologists. The various tribes form
one race of Negritos, speaking varieties of a single fundamental language.