The Sandbender Tribes are a loosely-organized group of tribesmen indigenous to the Si Wong Desert in the Earth Kingdom. They travel across the sand dunes through the use of sand-sailers. The sandbenders are divided into tribes, one of them being the Hami Tribe. Due to the abundance of sand in their homeland, they have developed a special style of earthbending that involves bending loose sand instead of solid earth. This technique bears a resemblance to both waterbending and airbending rather than traditional earthbending.
In 100 AG, a group of sandbenders managed to capture the Avatar's flying bison, Appa, despite his fierce resistance. In an attempt to escape, Appa caused the loss of a sand-sailer which the group had stolen from the Hami Tribe. They later traded the sky bison to the beetle-headed merchants, who proceeded to sell him to a Fire Nation circus.
Days later, some sandbenders – among them the thieves that stole Appa – searched for the sand-sailer Appa had caused the sandbenders to lose. This sand-sailer had been recovered by Team Avatar, and at first, the sandbenders accused the team of theft, but Sha-Mo jumped to their defense. Toph recognized the voice of one of the thieves, Ghashiun, and deduced that he stole Appa. At first, Ghashiun denied this charge, but when Toph revealed that he had muzzled the bison, Aang became enraged and entered the Avatar State. Fearful of Aang's rage-induced power, Ghashiun admitted his theft and stated that he traded the bison, who was probably, by that point, in Ba Sing Se. The sandbenders subsequently offered to escort the group out of the desert.
Sometime before 171 AG, a group of sandbenders had surrounded an oasis in the middle of the desert, the only one for a hundred miles. Bumi, who was a commander in the United Forces at the time, along with his platoon had taken notice of these sandbenders as the troops approached the oasis in an attempt to retrieve water, but were not welcomed by the angry tribesmen.
After she left Republic City, Suyin Beifong traveled to the Si Wong Desert and lived among a commune of sandbenders. She left sometime afterward to found the city of Zaofu.
Since economic opportunities are limited in the desert, sandbenders get by however they can. They have been known to scavenge for dead animals, or even steal from passing travelers at the nearby cantina.
Due to their living in the sun-drenched Si Wong Desert, skin cancer is a common ailment among the Sandbender Tribes.