In the realm of extensive research on various Indian tribes, the specificities surrounding tribal women have remained a relatively underexplored facet within scholarly discourse. This research paper addresses this gap by delving into the lives of Bhotia women, a Scheduled Tribe residing in the Johar valley of the Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand. Former trans-Himalayan traders, the Bhotias underwent transformative shifts in human geography, influencing trade, identity, and mobility. The study examines the repercussions of these changes on tribal women, exploring how they assimilated transformations and navigated evolving societal dynamics, leading to alterations in their roles and status within the community. Utilising oral history as a vital tool, given the lack of documentation on many aspects of the Bhotia tribe, especially those related to women, the research unravels the multifaceted dimensions of the tribe through the nuanced lens of gender. The narrative reveals that the Bhotia community’s transition from trans-Himalayan traders to a settled existence in the Johar valley shaped a social structure where women encountered fewer discriminatory challenges than in other societies. Actively participating in trade before settling in winter houses, Bhotia women played pivotal roles in family leadership and the woollen industry. Sanskritisation further accentuated gender-based inequalities, contributing to a nuanced identity shift. Despite this, traditional practices such as craft and beer-making endured, showcasing the resilience of Bhotia women against the backdrop of evolving societal norms. In juxtaposition to neighbouring societies, Bhotia women emerge as relatively empowered, with a distinctive identity often remarked upon by external observers. The study sheds light on the transformative journey of Bhotia women and offers insights into the complexities of gender dynamics within tribal societies, enriching our understanding of the broader tapestry of Indian cultural diversity. The paper begins by contextualising the Bhotia community in the Johar valley, Uttarakhand, emphasising the historical role of women in trans-Himalayan trade. Delving into cultural dimensions, it explores women’s engagement in wool craft, examining their significance in various life events and folktales. Historical examples, notably Old Jasuli, illustrate the agency of Bhotia women amid societal shifts. The paper scrutinises the impact of Sanskritisation on gender dynamics and discusses persistent patriarchal elements. Transitioning to the present, it highlights the new identity of Bhotia women within the Hindu mainstream, emphasising their resilience. The methodology employed for this study is purely qualitative in nature, drawing data from diverse sources. The research encompasses semi-structured interviews and visual ethnography, supplemented by secondary research. The paper, a culmination of a two-year-long project conducted under the National Mission on Himalayan Studies, grounded in field experience, unravels the intricacies of Bhotia women’s lives. This research not only contributes to academic scholarship but also serves as a valuable resource for policymakers and practitioners engaged in fostering inclusivity and understanding the dynamics of gender within tribal communities.

Keywords: Bhotia, Uttarakhand, tribal women, Kumaon. trans-Himalayan