The Sandbender Tribes are the people indigenous to the Si Wong Desert in the Earth Federation split into several distinct tribes. Named for their special style of bending loose sand instead of solid earth, the tribes have adapted to the harsh desert environment by becoming nomads, traders, raiders, and scavengers. They travel across the sand dunes by sand-sailers and guide themselves using the stars and the desert’s unique magnetism.
Since economic opportunities are tough to come by in the desert, sandbenders get by however they can. Most survive through the traditions and techniques passed down to them by their parents; some sandbenders, however, steal from others (though raiding is considered shameful). The relationship between the sandbender tribes and citizens from outside the desert is an uneasy one. Sandbenders are not usually welcomed by others because of the stereotype that all sandbenders are thieves and bandits.
In Genji’s Time
The sandbenders were mostly unaffected by Kuvira’s attempted Earth Empire coup. However, when the new Earth Federation was created, the new government inherited an economy broken by Kuvira’s invasion and mounting national debt. Desperate for a quick and easy solution to the Earth Federation’s financial troubles, the government invaded parts of the Si Wong Desert, where rich deposits of oil and precious ore rested under the sand. Their invasion to get these valuable resources forcibly removed dozens of sandbender tribes in the process.
Many sandbenders were forced to move to the slums of nearby cities and had to adjust to the stationary confines of city life. The Earth Federation wants sandbenders to conform to the stubborn immovability of earth, but sandbenders are as free as the sand that blows in the wind. This act destroyed traditional nomadic lifestyles, cultural identity, and tribal unity. Young sandbender children no longer have access to their traditional lifestyle or relatives and are losing touch with their culture.
Some sandbenders protest their unfair treatment and try to get their homelands back, but few will listen to them because of their negative reputation and stereotypes. This has resulted in many sandbenders who resent the Earth Federation government and has created an opportunity for the Red Lotus to recruit vulnerable sandbenders to their cause. These Red Lotus sandbenders are given a unique name, the Red Sands.
(Written by Macky and Dray)