Amidst the thin air and harsh conditions that one would find in the Himalayas, lives a hard working group of people called the Sherha (or Sherpa). Many view the Sherpa as the workhorses behind reaching the world's highest summits. While they are among the most trusted guides in the Himalayas, the Sherpa culture dates back hundreds of years to a time of subsistence agriculture and intra-regional trade. Slowly, their society is becoming more and more integrated with western ideas and culture, as most isolated peoples have experienced over time. They have transformed into a society thriving on tourism, rather than trade and agriculture. Such a transformation is necessary for any culture to survive.
The ancestors of the Sherha most likely migrated from the Kham, in eastern Tibet over 500 years ago, in search of pastures more suited for their hunting and agricultural needs. The Sherha were a typical hunter/gatherer society, specializing in the herding of yaks, and the growing of rice, corn, and potatoes (beginning in the 1850's) (History of the Sherpas: A Chronological Chart). Their existence depended upon trade between the clans, and other ethnic groups, however. While there was much equality between women and men, there was clear division of labor between the two groups. The men, for example, were the caretakers of the yaks, while the women were involved in the agriculture and trade aspects. With such isolation that the Himalayas provide, economic opportunities offer little more than a subsistence way of life, with a limited trade. The Sherpa are, to this day, raised in a harsh environment, learning at an early age to provide for their respective clans. This loyalty is the driving force behind why the society has strived for hundreds of years, with little change.
Kinship in the Sherpa culture is one of patrilineal descent, with each clan being traced back hundreds of years through the 18 different clans, or families.