ZIRO, July 5: Apatani people, often likened to the Jews of Israel for their ingenuity, high education, intelligence, and civilized society, must now introspect the sustainability of their society, said Agriculture minister Gabriel D Wangsu.

Speaking as the chief guest at the Central Dree Festival Celebration here on Friday, Wangsu said the people of Arunachal, including the Apatanis, are gradually embracing modernity, which has deeply affected the traditional tribal cultural systems.

"We are presently at a crossroads of transition," he said.

Advocating for the preservation of tribal culture, values, and ethos, Wangsu emphasized that the Dree festival should symbolize the rich cultural legacy of the Apatani people.

He warned against allowing modernity to dilute this heritage and called for a unified Dree festival celebration in Ziro to foster unity and camaraderie among the Apatanis.

Yachuli MLA, Toko Tatung, who was the guest of honour, pointed out that Ziro, the tourism hub of the state, has not been adequately marketed. He credited former minister Tage Taki for developing tourist attractions like Siikhey and Seeh lakes, and India's first Integrated Aqua Park at Tarin. Tatung proposed developing a "porter track" to Talle Valley to attract tourists for camping and overnight stays in Ziro.

Highlighting the declining state of wet rice paddy fields in Ziro, Tatung called for government intervention to support paddy cultivation, which has become laborious and economically unviable for local farmers.

He emphasized the need for government assistance to preserve these paddy fields, a prime tourist attraction in Ziro.

The MLA also encouraged inter-marriages between the Apatanis and Nyishis to foster greater assimilation and integration between the two neighboring tribes.

He urged the promotion of local products and entrepreneurship in bamboo, cane, and wood industries within the twin districts of Lower Subansiri and Keyi Panyor.

Former minister and CDFC Ziro chief patron, Tage Taki, appealed to the community not to politicize the Dree festival. He emphasized that the festival is a common platform for the Apatani community to showcase talents in games, sports, literature, and culture, and to foster assimilation and integration.

CDFC Ziro chairman, Nani Tani and general secretary, Take Taki (MT), also addressed the gathering, highlighting the mythology of Dree. The celebration featured cultural items, prize distributions, a mega Daminda dance, and a community feast.

The festival was attended by several dignitaries.

In Itanagar, Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein graced the Golden Jubilee Capital Complex Dree Festival Celebration at the Dree Ground in Papu Nallah near here on Friday, marking a significant milestone for the Apatani community's rich traditions and history.

Mein, on the occasion, inaugurated the Apatani Heritage - Souvenir Shopping Complex and the Golden Jubilee Dree Heritage Gate, providing local artisans a platform to showcase their crafts and promote cultural exchange.

The deputy chief minister also launched two books and a music album.

"Gangu Ellu" by Taro Tallo features lyrical verses of fifty Apatani songs, while "Miji Nando" compiled by Dr. Hage Tabyo contains Apatani Shamanic verses and folktales. The music album, "Ane Aba" by Punyo Krah & Medu Foundation School, was also unveiled.

Praising the efforts behind these cultural initiatives, Mein highlighted their role in preserving the Apatani community's folk legacy, previously transmitted orally across generations.

Reflecting on the festival's 50-year journey, Mein emphasized the importance of retrospection and future planning for community and state development.

Mein acknowledged the Apatani community's contributions to state development, citing examples like Robin Hibu, Arunachal Pradesh's first IPS Officer and DGP, and numerous Apatani officers in administrative roles.

Highlighting government initiatives to preserve cultural heritage, Mein mentioned the Department for Indigenous Affairs, Gurukul Schools, local dialects as the third language in schools, and honorariums for priests.

Addressing youth, Mein urged them to uphold discipline, strive for excellence in their fields, and maintain a strong cultural connection.

The event also saw Lifetime Achievement Awards being conferred on key figures associated with the Central Dree Festival, including Former Arts and Culture director, Lod Kojee, and others recognized posthumously for their visionary contributions.

The event was also attended by MLA Techi Kaso, Legislative Assembly deputy speaker Kardo Nyigyor, Ziro-Hapoli MLA Hage Appa, Itanagar Mayor Tame Phassang among other dignitaries.