The Ilongots and the Dumagats are the original inhabitants of the province, which used to be the forest region of Nueva Vizcaya. These tribal groups roamed the hinterlands, building their huts in the heart of the jungle. The Ilongots used to be a feared tribe because of their headhunting ritual, which coincides with the blooming of the red-blood flower of the “bagbag-tree”. They are simply half naked and clothed g-strings for the male and wrap skirts for the females. They are also fond of coiled wire bracelets and fancy jewelries.

The Ilongots are hunters and slash and burn farmers living around the headwaters of the Cagayan River who have a strong pride in their penchant for hunting heads but they have already abandoned the practice. Men do most of the hunting while the women plant rootcrops, rice, tobacco and bananas in small cleared fields. The Ilongots have little contact with lowland people except when occasionally trading dried deer meat.

Other cultural communities like the Ifugaos and the Igorots in search for the proverbial “greener pasture” migrated to the province and are now living in the highlands. Of the ethnic groups, the Ifugao have the greatest number.

With the onset of the Christian settlers like the Ilocanos, who form the majority of the people living in the province, the Tagalogs, Pangasinenses, and the other people from neighboring provinces, these indigenous tribes went deeper into the forest.