the Yolmo people

« Those who identify as Yolmo wa [Yolmo people], until recently known as Helambu Sherpa, understand that their ancestors have lived for three centuries or so along the upper, forested ridges of the Yolmo Valley. At least some of these ancestors were Buddhist priests, known as lamas, who migrated from Kyirong, an area in the southwest of present-day Tibet, to the central upland area of Yolmo after receiving land grants for Buddhist temples bestowed to them by Newar and then Gurkha kings. Much less certain is how many others also migrated from the Kyirong region and, relatedly, to what degree the relocated lama families formed marriage alliances with families already living in the Yolmo region. In any event, in time a class of people known as the Lama People emerged in Yolmo, and it is to these people that today’s Yolmo wa trace their heritage. » (Robert Desjarlais, in Sensory Biographies : Lives and Deaths among Nepal’s Yolmo Buddhists, p. 7, University of California Press, 2003)

« Most Yolmo people are devout practitioners of the Nyingma school of Mahayana Buddhism. Religious pratices ranges from solitary meditative practices, to efforts to engage in karmically meritorious deeds, to sincere attempts to live virtuous, beneficial lives, to a family’s daily offerings to Buddhist deities, to a community’s participation in Buddhist rites.» (Robert Desjarlais, p. 11)

« Residents of the Yolmo region began to identify themselves as Sherpa or Helambu Sherpa in the late 1960s. Previously, they called themselves Lama People to distinguish themselves ethnically from Tamang clans, who neighbored them on the southern and western sides of the Yolmo region and who often served as “sponsors” to Yolmo lamas. But within the increasing international renown of their cultural cousins, the Solu-Khumbu Sherpa of the Mount Everest region, families in Yolmo aligned themselves with this prestigious group and began to refer to themselves as Sherpa to outsiders. By the late 1990s, however, one of the main debates within the Yolmo community was whether to identify as Sherpa or as Yolmo people. Many, particularly elders and families residing solely in the Yolmo region, still subscribed to the former term. But far more, especially educated men and women living in Kathmandu, were now identifying themselves as Yolmo people. Among other reasons, the latter individuals found it necessary to establish an ethnic identity that signaled that, as a whole, they were distinct from the Sherpa people of the Solu-Khumbu region. All this was in tune with the multifaceted, evershifting “ethnoscapes” of Nepal in the 1990s, in which numerous communities were attempting to establish or reconstruct the collective identities they took and tried to promote to others as their own. » (Robert Desjarlais, p. 12)

The Yolmo people speak a Tibetan-derived language which is totally different from the Nepali language ; their dialect belongs to the Tibeto-Burman language group and uses the same script as the Tibetan people, which is widely used in their religious books.

The main festival celebrated by the Yolmo people is Sonam Losar, the new year festival, in the second part of January.