The Kachin people have lived under the occupation of the Burmese government for 50 years, but are not at all Burmese. They have a unique history, culture, and language, and are closer to the Tibetans. They are known by all who visit them as either kind hosts or fierce fighters, depending on the purpose of the visit.
Although many have moved to the valleys and plains in recent generations the Kachin are a mountain people, evident in part by the lack of words in their native languages to describe many things only found at lower elevations.
Within the Kachin there are 7 linguistic sub-groups, each with a particular dress. They consider themselves of one ethnicity because they all share the same last names and all share the same dancing festival traditions. All Kachin still belong to clans. In Kachin culture you can be related by blood, marriage, family name, language group or clans, and so Kachin consider most other Kachin to be brothers and sisters, or at least cousins.
The Kachin people also live in Yunnan, China and in NE India. The customs are a little different in the three countries but the people are still obviously from the same ethnic group. They meet regularly and keep their bonds strong.
The Kachin mostly refer to themselves collectively as Wungpang. Kachin is the word that the Burmese and the world use to refer to them.
The Kachin population is about 2.5 million people, of which about 1 million live in the borders of Burma today.
More to come…