- This article is about the location in the series. For the location in the film, see Southern Water Tribe.
Southern Water Tribe
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The Southern Water Tribe has an eventful history, and saw times of prosperity and freedom as well as decline and genocide. Before the Hundred Year War, the Southern Water Tribe was not a great power like its sister tribe, but was still thriving. It had a unique culture and waterbending style, and was centered in one large inland city. However, the Hundred Year War reached the tribe in 40 ASC. In order to eliminate a possible threat to its war efforts, the Fire Nation initiated a series of brutal raids, devastating the South Pole and killing or capturing all waterbenders. In the end, the Southern Water Tribe was on the brink of extinction, with its culture shattered, its main city largely abandoned, and its unique waterbending style effectively erased.
After this group's involvement in the Siege of the North, the Northern Water Tribe administrated a relief effort led by Master Pakku, who brought along a number of warriors, waterbenders, and healers to aid in the Southern tribe's redevelopment. By the time of Avatar Korra's birth in 153 ASC, the tribe had grown significantly, and had begun to play a significant role in world affairs. A representative from the Southern Water Tribe holds a position on the United Republic Council that governs the United Republic of Nations.
Originally, the Water Tribe existed as one nation, solely based in the North Pole. However, following civil unrest, a large group of warriors, waterbenders and healers journeyed to the South Pole to engender a new tribe. Due to the division, the two sects evolved differently. The Southern Water Tribe was once a massive, wide, beautiful city filled with hundreds and hundreds of capable waterbenders of both men and women, unlike the Northern Water Tribe which allowed only men, but was destroyed following attacks from the Fire Nation, which started forty years into the Hundred Year War. The firebenders came and started to capture as many waterbenders from the southern faction as they could. Despite being outnumbered, the Southern waterbenders put up a good fight and won minor victories, such as successfully trapping a Fire Nation ship in solid ice, thus creating the shipwreck. However, their determination was not good enough. Eventually Hama was the only waterbender left, and she, too, was taken. After all of the waterbenders had been killed or captured and their once wondrous cities decimated to mere conglomerations of tepees and igloos, the tribe split apart into smaller groups and scattered across the South Pole.
Contact between the two tribes was severed, and the Southern Tribe was split into much smaller groups and scattered across the South Pole, its natives reduced to dwelling within simple sealskin tents and small igloos.
In 94 ASC, the Southern Water Tribe was attacked by the Southern Raiders, an elite Fire Nation naval force assigned to raid the South Pole when ordered to. They knew that one waterbender remained in the Southern Water Tribe, and were assigned to kill her. This turned out to be eight-year-old Katara. The Water Tribe warriors, led by Chief Hakoda, fought off the attackers bravely, but the Raiders' leader, Yon Rha, managed to infiltrate the village. He captured Katara's mother, Kya, and interrogated her, demanding to know the identity of the last Southern waterbender. At first, Kya stated that there were no waterbenders remaining, as the Fire Nation had captured them all long ago. Yon Rha was not convinced, saying that a reliable source had told him that one waterbender remained in the Southern Water Tribe. He continued to state that his men would not back down until the waterbender was found. Kya then deliberately told Yon Rha that she was the last waterbender of the Southern Water Tribe, lying to protect both her daughter and the village. Kya told Yon Rha that she was ready to be taken as their prisoner, but Yon Rha said that he was not ordered to take back any prisoners and ruthlessly murdered her.
In the final years of the Hundred Year War, the Southern Water Tribe was in dire straits, teetering on the brink of extinction. Its remaining population was dwindling due to Fire Nation raids and was defenseless, as its warriors had left for the Earth Kingdom to aid them against the Fire Nation. With the departure of the sole remaining waterbender, Katara, and warrior, Sokka, the tribe consisted mostly of elderly, middle-aged women, mothers and very young children. After the Siege of the North, a group of waterbenders and healers from the Northern Tribe were sent to the Southern Tribe to help rebuild their sister tribe.
After the Hundred Year War Edit
In 153 ASC, the next Avatar in the cycle, Korra, was born in the Southern Water Tribe. By this time, the region was much more developed, showing the success of the Northern Water Tribe volunteers who promised to revitalize their sister tribe. The old city became a major agglomeration again, while several little villages and settlements were built nearby; infrastructure had also improved, as larger, more elaborately designed huts had been constructed, as well as a new compound.
In Korra's childhood, the Order of the White Lotus visited the Southern Tribe to investigate a claim involving the next Avatar. Their search had come to an end upon discovering that Korra was the 'chosen one'. Katara, the former Avatar's wife and also a member of the tribe, helped the new Avatar master waterbending, as she did for the previous one.
Years later, Tenzin and his family visited the Southern Water Tribe to deliver the news that he could not train Korra because of his duties in Republic City. After staying the night, he returned home. Korra decided to run away soon after, desiring Tenzin's airbending tutelage.
The Southern Water Tribe also gained a seat on the United Republic Council, charging one of its residents with helping to oversee the United Republic of Nations.
Government system: Tribal chiefdom
Head of state and government: Chief
The villages of the Southern Water Tribe are each led by a single leader, or chief, per tribe, and the role is restricted to male warriors. Hakoda led the southernmost tribe, the one near which Aang was discovered.
The Southern Water Tribe is a much smaller and less stratified society, unlike the Northern Tribe.
Village (former city) Edit
Toward the end of the Hundred Year War, the village, positioned on a northern shoreline, was surrounded by a low, roughly circular snow wall, broken up by a snow watchtower, which was built by Sokka, to the north and a non-gated entrance to the south. Inside were eight residential tents, arranged semi circularly around a communal fire pit. A giant igloo hugged the east wall, while a handful of smaller units clustered the north wall. Outside, to the right of the entrance, was a small igloo structure that served as the village outhouse. The remaining population stood at less than two dozen, with ten older women, ten young children and one domesticated polar dog.
The village was much larger sixty years prior to the end of the war, and consisted of dozens of tents and igloos surrounded by a very large ice wall. A central igloo lay in the center of the village, which was circular in design. However, the village shrunk in size due to constant raids by the Fire Nation and the departure of the Water Tribe warriors.
Seventy years after the Hundred Year War, the Southern Water Tribe has greatly expanded, showing the success of the Northern Water Tribe volunteers who promised to develop the Southern Water Tribe during the time of Avatar Aang.
The shipwreck Edit
- Main article: Shipwreck
West of the village lies a Fire Navy ship, torn open by jutting ice shelves. Though the shipwreck is a relic of the Fire Nation's historic first strike, its booby traps are still in working order. Aang accidentally set off a flare that was meant to signal the Fire Nation. It is later revealed that Hama and the Southern waterbenders were responsible for the wrecking of the vessel, as a brief scene shows them raising the ship up with ice and grounding it. The location appears to be the same seen when Aang and Katara explored it.
- Main article: Southern Water Tribe compound
The Southern Water Tribe compound lies deep within the South Pole. It is a small, isolated encampment secured by thick ice walls and a large gate. The enclosure features several watchtowers, large buildings for shelter, an obstacle course and sub-level pens lined with hay for fauna, such as Naga. A large raised platform made of ice is located in the center of the camp, both for Korra's bending training and combat practice. Members of the Order stand on a wooden pavilion overlooking the platform, where they monitor Korra's progress. Sentries from the White Lotus also man the watchtowers and clear any individual wishing to enter or exit the encampment.
Frozen tundra Edit
A significant stretch of Antarctic tundra covers most of the South Pole. In contrast to the mountainous tundra of the North Pole, it consists of a plain of ice and snow, broken only occasionally by mountains. This treacherous terrain makes it impossible for anyone to live there. Within the tundra is an ice cave in which a dark spirit resides.
Ice dodging Edit
- Main article: Ice dodging
The tribe has a unique rite of passage called ice dodging. This is a coming-of-age ritual that serves as a young boy's first step toward being realized as a true warrior. The rite is described as a ceremonial test of wisdom, bravery and trust.
When a boy reaches the age of fourteen, his father takes him out to sea and challenges him to guide the boat through iceberg-studded waters. The father watches, but does not interfere. If and when the boy succeeds, his father places a ceremonial mark on his forehead symbolizing the virtue he demonstrated most prominently during the test. The Mark of the Wise is awarded to those who show leadership and decisiveness. The Mark of the Brave is given for inspirational displays of courage. Finally, the Mark of the Trusted is bestowed upon those who prove themselves to be exceptionally steady and dependable.
The Southern Water Tribe is willing to adapt traditions such as ice dodging when circumstances warrant it. When Bato realized that Sokka had never undergone the ritual due to Hakoda's departure, he took Sokka, Katara, and Aang on an ice dodging expedition in rocky Earth Kingdom waters. When they succeeded, he marked all three and declared even Aang an honorary member of the Water Tribe.
Children of the Tribe play a game called penguin sledding, which consists of catching an otter penguin and riding its back as a makeshift sled. One typically lures in the otter penguin with a fish to make catching it easier.
Gender equality Edit
While the Northern Water Tribe is an exceptionally strict patriarchal culture, gender roles in the Southern Water Tribe are far less rigid. Katara was shocked to learn that the Northern Tribe forbade women from learning waterbending apart for healing purposes, seeing how her father, Hakoda, recognized her bending abilities early on and unsuccessfully sought a master to teach her. Female waterbenders took an active part in battle, and are never forced into arranged marriages, but are instead free to marry whomever they see fit.
Nevertheless, the Southern Tribe does not seem to be entirely free of gender roles. During the first few episodes of the series, up until his encounter with the Kyoshi Warriors, Sokka displayed a sexist attitude, claiming on numerous occasions that men are naturally better than women at tasks like hunting, fishing, and combat. In addition, during the siblings' childhood, Katara was responsible for "women's work" like midwifery and washing and mending clothes, including Sokka's; in contrast, Sokka was allowed to spend his time building fortifications and training younger boys to defend the village against the Fire Nation, despite the fact that his preparations were inadequate to deal with any real attack. However, notably, even Sokka was shocked and confused to learn of the Northern Water Tribe's sexist customs. In general, the Southern Water Tribe seems to have a simpler, less hierarchical culture and a more open-minded and flexible mindset.
The inside of a typical Southern Water Tribe's hut contains a number of animal pelts that are placed on bamboo floors. At one end of the hut, a sealskin tent is set up. This is used as a sleeping chamber. Ceremonial animal headdresses, spears, and animal skins are usually displayed on the walls of the hut.
In the center of the hut is a square fire pit, surrounded by a single line of bricks. The fire provides heat for the hut, and is also used to prepare food. There are mats for sitting on all four sides of the fire pit. A stew post, used for cooking, hangs suspended from the ceiling, hovering above the fire.
Warriors of the Southern Water Tribe wield weaponry that includes clubs, scimitars, bone spears used in spear fishing, bladed boomerangs, machetes with whale teeth on the dull side of the blade, and shields. Black and white warpaint in a pattern reminiscent of a wolf is traditionally applied to the face before entering a battle. During the Invasion of the Fire Nation, all the warriors wore wolf-headed helmets and suits of armor.
It seems as though all adult men of the tribe are expected to be fully trained warriors. Two years prior to Avatar Aang's reawakening, all the tribe's men sailed to the Earth Kingdom to join the war effort. It is unclear whether women without waterbending abilities are ever allowed to train as warriors; however, there are very few women left behind, so the lack of women in the war party may simply reflect the tribe's overall population decline as a result of Fire Nation attacks. It is clear, however, that women who are waterbenders are accepted as fighters in the Southern Water Tribe; the northern faction's custom of restricting female waterbenders from combat takes Katara completely by surprise, and a flashback shows Hama and other women using their waterbending abilities to defend the tribe against the first Fire Nation raid.
Natural resources and foods Edit
Inhabiting frozen poles near the seas, the Water Tribes inherently are dependent on the oceans for a majority of their natural resources and well as the bounty of the frozen tundra. Sea prunes are a particular favorite. Squid and seaweed can be used to make a wide variety of dishes, including soup, seasoning, and even bread and cookies.
Skins from seals are used to create tents, while pelts from polar bears and other furry animals are used for clothing and as covering for barren surfaces. Naturally, hunters and fishermen of the Water Tribes are some of the best in the world in their field.