COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Tissahami, a tribal chief who led his people for at least seven decades, has died, a government official said Saturday.

It is not known when Tissahami was born, but he is believed to have been nearly 100.

He died Friday of natural causes in the Sri Lankan village of Mahiyangana, 75 miles east of Colombosaid, said government agent M. Etampawela.

Tissahami led the Veddha tribe, believed to be descendants of neolithic hunters. In recent years, the Veddhas have been forced out of their forest homes and confined to two government settlements, where they try to preserve their primitive ways.

They continue to wear swaths of cloth around their waists and carry bows and arrows. But many have assimilated into the local culture.