The Yolmo people (also Yholmo, Hyolmo, Yohlmo, Yolmopa) are an indigenous group of people that natively reside in the Helambu and Melamchi Valleys of northeastern Nepal situated over 43.4 kilometres (27 miles) and 44.1 kilometres (27.4 miles) to the north of Kathmandu respectively. They also have sizeable communities in Bhutan and some territories within India, primarily Darjeeling and Sikkim. They speak the Yolmo language which has a high lexical similarity to Tibetan, although the two languages are not completely mutually intelligible.
The Yolmo communities in Nepal were badly affected by the Nepal earthquake, particularly the communities in Drupadong, Sermathang, Tarkeghyang, Melamchighyang where many local residences were destroyed.
Yolmo speakers  migrated from the Kyirong Valleys of southwestern Tibet around two to three hundred years ago. They settled in the valleys of Helambu once they arrived there, and gradually, intermarriages between the male Yolmo lamas and the Tamang women local to the region became common.
In the 1980s, an increased number of Yolmos began identifying themselves as the "Helambu Sherpa", even using the appellation as a surname to align themselves with the more prominent Sherpa people of the Solukhumbu District. Although this name is still used to refer to the Yolmo people and their language in certain instances, including the ISO 639-3 language codes, very few Yolmo people would be likely to identify themselves as a subsection of the Sherpas in the current date.
The Yolmos are among the 59 indigenous groups officially recognized by the Government of Nepal as having a distinct cultural identity. They refer to themselves as the "Yolmopa" or "Hyolopa". Their primary religion is Tibetan Buddhism of the Nyingmapa school, intermixed with animism and paganism as incorporated within the general dimensions of Shamanism.
Essentially, the Yolmo people are agriculturalists. Potatoes, radishes, and some other crops constitute their primary sustenance, along with the milk and flesh from the yak which Yolmos are known to herd. Theve villages or in various other parts of Nepal.
The Yolmo people are organised into several clans, all of which follow the patrilineal system of descent. They used to practice a form of bride "stealing" as part of their tradition, but that practice is no longer encouraged.
The Helambu region has become a popular site for tourism and trekking in the last few decades, and some Yolmos are now employed in the tourism industry, serving as guides either in their own respective villages or in various other parts of Nepal.
According to the Nepal National Census of 2011, the population of the Yolmo people living within Nepal is 10,752, and they are distributed over 11 districts of the country. 99% from this population speak the Yolmo language. The number of monolingual Yolmo speakers is very low and on a gradual decline, as many people also speak Nepali. The largest Yolmo settlements, comprising a total of about 10,000 people, are located in the Helambu and Melamchi valleys, about 44 and 27 kilometres/27 and 17 miles to the northeast of Kathmandu, respectively. A separate group of about 700 reside in the Lamjung district while some have settled closer to Pokhara. There are also a number of villages in the Ilam district where Yolmo is spoken.
The term "Yolmo" or "Hyolmo" consists of two separate words — Hyol, which means "a place or area surrounded by high mountains", and Mo, "goddess", indicating a place under the protection of a female deity. For centuries, Tibetan Buddhists have referred to the Helambu region using the term "Yolmo". In more recent times, most people, Yolmos and otherwise, seem to prefer the name "Helambu" itself. It is also often claimed that the name "Helambu" is derived from the Yolmo words for potatoes and radishes (Hey means "potato" and lahbu is "radish"). This etymology is disputed and often considered spurious. Some refuters of this explanation argue that "Helambu" is an ambiguation of the word "Yolmo" phonetically contoured by Nepali speakers.
There is an ongoing discussion amongst Yolmo scholars regarding the spelling of 'Yolmo' in the Latin script. Some favour 'Yolmo' while others prefer 'Hyolmo' or 'Yholmo'. The presence of the letter 'h' in the spelling is to indicate that the first syllable of the word is spoken with a low, breathy tone. It is worth noting that Robert R. Desjarlais and Graham E. Clarke (works cited below) both use 'Yolmo', while the Nepal Aadivasi Janajati Mahasangh (Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities) use 'Hyolmo'.
The Yolmo language is also very closely related to Kagate, another language of the Kyirong-Kagate language sub-group. The Kagate people stem from the original Yolmo inhabitants of the Helambu and Melamchi valleys. What distinguishes them from the Yolmo is the fact that they began migrating southeast from Helambu (and eventually, into the Ramechhap District) over one-hundred years ago, and that during their peregrinations, they practiced the craft of paper-making in order to make a living. Hence, the name "Kagate" (which is Nepali for 'Paper maker'). They have since developed certain characteristics in their speech that are distinct from traditional Yolmo. The Yolmo speaking groups in the Lamjung District and Ilam District have also historically been called Kagate although both groups claim a clear distinction between themselves and the Kagate of Ramechhap. Oftentimes, people will use 'Yolmo' and 'Kagate' as terms for both the ethnic group and the dialect interchangeably.
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