Kanha originally formed a part of the Gondwana or the "land of gonds". These forests were inhabited by two aboriginal tribes, practising shifting cultivation and subsisting on forest resources.
One of the oldest wildlife sanctuaries in India, Kanha was declared a Reserved Forest in 1879 and upgraded to a wildlife sanctuary in 1933. Part of this was denotified later. The Raja of Vijaynagram shot 30 tigers between 1947 and 1951, which caused great uproar.
Kanha was notified as a national park in 1955 and declared a tiger reserve in 1973. Managed under a core-buffer strategy, the area of the Kanha core zone is 917.43 sq. km., while that of the buffer zone is 1134 sq. km. The Phen wildlife sanctuary of 110 sq. km. serves as a satellite micro-core under the Kanha administration.
The Baiga are among the most primitive tribes of India. They are skilled woodsmen, practised shifting cultivation and survived largely by hunting and gathering honey, herb, gum, flowers, and fruit from the forest. These and handicraft items like mats, umbrellas and basket are bartered for cloth, salt, utensil and ornaments in the weekly bazars.
They are remarkably knowledgeable about animals and plants. Naturally, they make extremely good trackers.
The Gond have racial affinity with the aboriginal of Australia. They speak various dialects of Gondi, an unwritten language. Some have lost their own language and speak Hindi, Marathi or Telgu. They practise shifting cultivation and worship nature, village deities and ancestors.