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An ancient tribe of gentle and peaceful people. Recognized by their fair complexion and short stature.

The People

Arunachal Pradesh, India

The Tutsa are an ancient tribe of gentle and peaceful people. They have a fair complexion and are short in stature. Agriculturalists by tradition, they used to utilise shifting cultivation and rear domestic animals such as horses, cows, pigs, goats and poultry. The Tutsa have always been hard working, but nowadays they purchase their rice from the market and grow cardamom, oranges, ginger and vegetables. They are skilled in weaving and bead work and boast a rich culture with many festivals and traditions. The Tutsa believe that they are descendent from the sun and the wind. Their festivals reflect their worship of their deity who they hope will protect them from the elements. The men wear loin cloths and the women wear skirts and dresses with necklaces made of beads. Society is patriarchal and they have a system of chiefdom where the chief is the ultimate authority in the village.

The Project

Mother-tongue literacy. 

Not long ago the Tutsa language was only spoken. Today the Tutsa people have their own writing system. Mother tongue speakers, who received linguistic training, worked with consultants to develop their alphabet which is based on the Roman script. The Tutsa people are very excited to have the opportunity to implement mother tongue literacy endeavours. They have a cultural committee comprising different parts of society that are pushing for this work. It is essential for a community to recognise their ‘felt need’ for  literacy and for them to ‘own’ the work. This ensures sustainability and greater success of the endeavour. Without this, outsiders continually have to push and support the project. This is a wonderful thing that is happening among the Tutsa community. This community ownership will contribute to ensuring longevity and success in these endeavours.  


As of January 2020

Literacy materials were developed in the Tutsa language by the speakers of the language in conjunction with linguists and literacy consultants following a pre-designed methodology. Illustrated by their own artists, their very individualised and culturally relevant materials have been designed to teach adults and children to read their own language. This includes: a pre-reader, books that teach the alphabet and an accompanying story book. They also have a book of folk tales, a spelling guide and an alphabet chart to be used in lessons. A basic mathematics course as well as teachers’ guides and teacher training manuals are also available for use in the project. The next steps are the establishment and training of a literacy committee, identification of a project coordinator and training of teachers from the Tutsa community. Further literature is also needed.

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