Tsimihety people

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Total population
2, 000 000
Regions with significant populations
Related ethnic groups

The Tsimihety are a Malagasy ethnic group located near the north-central coast of Madagascar. Their name means "those who do not cut their hair," in reference to their refusal to adhere to the customs imposed by Radama I .

Tsimihety are immigrants, or the descendants of immigrants from Betsimisaraka villages of the east coast. A small autochthonous population, the Vohilava, received Betsimisaraka immigrants who were fleeing from Merina oppression in the early nineteenth century. Before that, the Vohilava had allied with Zafinfotsy Sakalava fleeing from Zafinimena Sakalava coming from the west. Radama I, the Merina king, conquered the Tsimihety in 1823. The Merina put down numerous small rebellions, but were themselves conquered by the French in 1896. Some Tsimihety rebelled unsuccessfully against the French. Tension between Tsimihety and Merina is never far below the surface, even though Tsimihety avoid all outsiders as far as possible. Tsiranana, a Tsimihety from near Mandritsara, was the first president of the Malagasy Republic, which gained independence in 1960.

Tsimihety society and economy, as in much of Madagascar, is agricultural in focus. The Tsimihety 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. Their particular dialect has Arabic and French elements as well. The main economic center among the Tsimihety is in Mandritsara.[1]

Distribution of Malagasy ethnic groups

According to anthropologist David Graeber, the Tsimihety exist almost entirely independently of the contemporary Madagascar nation-state, maintaining their own extremely egalitarian, non-hierarchical society. Their history of autonomy extends all the way back to the Maroansetra dynasty in the sixteenth century, up through French colonial rule and today.

It is fady among the Tsimihety to work the land on Tuesdays.[2] The maternal uncle plays an important role in the Tsimihety family.[3]