Veddah (see Glossary)
are the last descendants of the
ancient inhabitants of Sri Lanka, predating the arrival of the
Sinhalese. They have long been viewed in the popular imagination
as a link to the original hunting-and-gathering societies that
gradually disappeared as the Sinhalese spread over the island. In
the 1980s, Veddah lived in the eastern highlands, where some had
been relocated as a result of the Mahaweli Garga Program. They
have not preserved their own language, and they resemble their
poorer Sinhalese neighbors, living in small rural settlements.
The Veddah have become more of a caste than a separate ethnic
group, and they are generally accepted as equal in rank to the
dominant Goyigama caste of the Sinhalese
(see Sri Lanka - Caste
, this ch.).
Data as of October 1988