The Nyishi are the largest ethnic group in Arunachal Pradesh in north-eastern India. In Nishi, their traditional language, Nyi refers to “a man” and the word shi denotes “a being”, which combined together refers to a civilized human being. They are spread across seven districts of Arunachal Pradesh: Kra Daadi, Kurung Kumey, East Kameng, West Kameng, Papum Pare, parts of Lower Subansiri and Upper Subansiri. They also live in the Sonitpur and North Lakhimpur districts of Assam.
Their population of around 300,000 makes them the most populous tribe of Arunachal Pradesh, closely followed by the combined tribes of the Adis and the Galos who were the most populous in the 2001 census. The Nyishi language belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family, however, the origin is disputed.
Polygyny is prevalent among the Nyishi. It signifies one’s social status and economical stability and also proves handy during hard times like clan wars or social huntings and various other social activities. This practice, however is diminishing especially with the modernization and also with the spread of Christianity. They trace their descent patrilineally and are divided into several clans.