tribe, only 96 in number is the Onge, also called [ö:ng]
‘we people’ by themselves, settled in the island called the Little Andaman
south of the Great Andaman. See map of
There are two settlements of Onge in the island since 1976.
One is known as the Dugong Creek settlement and the other is known as the
South Bay settlement. A majority of them live in the forest reserve area
of Dugong Creek. It is in the jungles of Dugong Creek that we got an
opportunity to stay with the Onges.
Out of the 96
tribes, only 5 families comprising of 15 members in all live in South Bay.
These families have maintained communication with those living in the
Dugong Creek reserve. The government has provided each family [family is
defined as ‘parents and non-married children’] with huts erected on
stilts. In addition, each family gets a monthly ration of daal (pulses),
oil, salt, biscuits, match boxes and clothes to wear. Interestingly, each
family has recently been provided with a portable transistor radio. It is
very amusing to see an Onge walking in the jungle with the transistor
blaring Hindi film music. Young Onge boys have been seen to hum lines from
Hindi songs without understanding a word of it.
At present, they
have moved from the Dugong Creek reserve further into the Tandalu
forest (Pandya 2005). Not only this, they have resumed their daily
chores such as hunting, fishing and gathering from different parts of the
forest. According to Pandya who visited Tandalu, Onges seemed
happier than before the Tsunami (giyangejebey in their language)
havoc, as they were no longer living in the prefabricated huts that were
totally devastated in the Tsunami aftereffects. Onges seemed contended,
as now they were living in huts, entirely made by them, and which were
similar to the traditional old huts they once lived in.
Onge is characterized by nineteen
consonants and nine-vowel system.
we are all sitting
Journey to Dugong Creek
Song on dongi