Huli, Papua New Guinea
It is believed that the first Papua New Guineans migrated to the island over 45000 years ago. Today, over 3 million people, half of the heterogeneous population, live in the highlands.
Information on tribes excerpted from Before They Pass Away.
The Himba are an ancient tribe of herders. Since the 16th century they have lived in scattered settlements, leading a life that has remained unchanged, surviving war and droughts.
The Kazakhs are the descendants of Turkic, Mongolic and Indo-Iranian tribes and Huns that populated the territory between Siberia and the Black Sea. They are a semi-nomadic people and have roamed the mountains and valleys of western Mongolia with their herds since the 19th century.
The Samburu people live in northern Kenya, where the foothills of Mount Kenya merge into the northern desert. As cattle-herding Nilotes, they reached Kenya some five hundred years ago.
Tsaatan (reindeer people) are the last reindeer herders who survived for thousands of years inhabiting the remotest subartic taiga, moving between 5 and 10 times a year. Presently, only 44 families remain, their existence threatened by the dwindling number of their domesticated reindeer.
Vanuatu, Republic of Vanuatu
Settlement in the 85 Vanuatu islands dates back to around 500 BC. There is evidence that Melanesian navigators from Papua New Guinea were the first to colonise Vanuatu. Over centuries, other migrations followed. Nowadays, all the inhabited islands have their own languages, customs and traditions.
When the Maasai migrated from the Sudan in the 15th century, they attacked the tribes they met along the way and raided cattle. By the end of their journey, they had taken over almost all of the land in the Rift Valley. To be a Maasai is to be born into one of the last great warrior cultures.
Maori, New Zealand
The long and intriguing story of the origine of the indigenous Maori people can be traced back to the 13th century, the mythical homeland Hawaiki, Eastern Polynesia. Due to centuries of isolation, the Maori established a distinct society with characteristic art, a separate language and unique mythology.
The former kingdom of Lo is linked by religion, culture and history to Tibet, but is politically part of Nepal. Now Tibetan culture is in danger of disappearing, it stands alone as one of the last truly Tibetan cultures existing today. Until 1991 no outsiders were allowed to enter Mustang.
One of the tribes inhabiting the Baliem Valley region, in the midst of the Jayawijaya mountain range of Papua Indonesia, is the Yali ‘Lords of the Earth’. They live in the virgin forests of the highlands. The Yali are officially recognised as pygmies, with men standing at just 150 cm tall.
Photographer Jimmy Nelson spent three-and-a-half years documenting vanishing indigenous cultures all over the world. The resulting photographs have recently been released in a voluminous book called Before They Pass Away. Here is a selection of his images.