The original natives of the land of Uttarakhand belong to different communities or tribes that have their own distinct and rich culture. The main tribes of the land are the Bhotias (Shaukas), Tharus, Buxas, Jaunsaris and Rajis.
Bhotia, which is a term derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Bhot’, is a generic name that includes the Shaukas of Munsiyari (Pithoragarh), Rangs of Dharchula (Pithoragarh), Tolchas and Marchhas of Niti and Mana valleys (Chamoli). These groups are mainly engaged in pastoral activities and are also known as Shaukas.
The Tharus were once the largest scheduled tribes and are now settled in the Khatima and Sitarganj tehsils of Udham Singh Nagar districts. Some say that their descendants are the Rajputs, while some others trace their origin from the Mongols of Central Asia. Their language is heavily influenced by Hindi and Nepali. Marriage by exchange or ‘badla marriage’, where two men marry each other’s sisters was traditionally practiced here. The joint family system is very inherent here. The Biradari Panchayat is the political organization of the Tharus. The Tharus also believe in 36 deities, as well as in witchcraft, sorcery and sacrifices. They are an agricultural community who are also fishing experts. Women do not eat the fish touched by men and so the men and women fish separately.
The Buxasare said to be the original inhabitants of the Terai belt and live in Udham Singh Nagar, Dehradun and Pauri Garhwal. They are the followers of Lord Rama and Krishna.