The Tanala are a Malagasy ethnic group that inhabit a forested inland region of south-east Madagascar near Manakara. Their name means "people of the forest." Tanala people identify with one of two sub-groups: the southern Ikongo group, who managed to remain independent in the face of the expanding Kingdom of Imerina in the 19th century, or the northern Menabe group, who submitted to Merina rule.
The Tanala speak a dialect of the Malagasy language, which is a branch of the Malayo-Polynesian language group derived from the Barito languages, spoken in southern Borneo. Among the Tanala it is traditional to keep the body of a deceased individual for a month or more; the dead are then buried in the forest in coffins carved from large logs, with sacrifices to mark the cutting of the log and indications carved into a tree to indicate the location of the burial.
Several Tanala rulers trace their lineage back to Antaimoroombiasy (wisemen) who migrated to the area after 1550. In the 1700s the Tanala led a bloody conquest of the eastern coast. Their major crops are coffee and rice. Recently, researchers have suggested that the Tanala are not truly a separate ethnic group.