Identification. The Mikirs are one of the more numerous of the Tibeto-Burman peoples inhabiting the Indian state of Assam. The major locus of their culture is within the Mikir Hills of Assam, but they are also dispersed throughout the Golaghat Subdivision of the Sibsagar District, Nowgong, Kamrup, the Khasi Hills, and the Cachar Hills. Mikir, a name of uncertain derivation, is the name given to this people by their Assamese neighbors. The Mikir call themselves "Arleng" (meaning "man" generally). Much of the detailed Ethnographic data available on the Mikir was compiled by Edward Stack in the late nineteenth century. This information was edited, supplemented, and published by Charles Lyall in 1908.
Location. The Mikir homeland is an isolated and Mountainous region situated between the Brahmaputra Valley (north), the Dhansiri Valley (east), the Kopili Valley (west), and the Jamuna Valley (south). Summits in the Mikir Hills reach as high as 1,200 meters, but the majority of the Mountain peaks are of lower elevation. The entire area is densely forested. The plains at the base of these mountains, which are quite fertile, are also occupied by the Mikir. The climate is forbidding: there is little breeze and the air is quite moist. Malaria and leprosy are constant health threats.
Demography. In 1971 the Mikir population totaled 184,089 persons. However, a 1987 poll conducted by the United Bible Societies recorded some 220,000 Mikir speakers in the region.
Linguistic Affiliation. Mikir (also called Manchati, Mikiri, or Karbi), which belongs to the Tibeto-Burman Family of the Sino-Tibetan Phylum, is the native language of the people.