The Water Tribe is a collective term for the nation of people who practice the art of waterbending. It is one of the original four nations and its citizens primarily inhabit the northern and southernmost regions of the globe, near both poles. Many people of Water Tribe ethnicity also live in the United Republic and there is a small community of waterbenders that populate the Foggy Swamp in the Earth Kingdom, although they were isolated from their sister tribes for generations and others were largely unaware of their existence until they were stumbled upon by Avatar Aang, Katara, and Sokka.
The people of the Water Tribe are generally peaceful, and strive to live in harmony with nature and the other nations of the world. There are two primary divisions of the Water Tribe, the Northern Tribe and the Southern Tribe, though both were at least de jure governed by the Northern chief until 171 AG.
Despite their peaceful nature, all three groups contributed toward important battles near the end of the Hundred Year War. The Northern Water Tribe was responsible for a major defeat of the Fire Nation Navy, resulting in the death of one of that country's most notable commanders, Admiral Zhao, while the Southern Water Tribe and Foggy Swamp Tribe both participated in the invasion of the Fire Nation on the Day of Black Sun.
Although in the past there was significant exchange between the North and South, contact between the two tribes was interrupted due to the chaos of the war. Though communication resumed afterwards, tensions remained between the tribes and worsened after Unalaq's attempts to reimpose Northern control over the mostly autonomous south via a military occupation, which threw the Water Tribe into a brief civil war. However, after the events of Harmonic Convergence and Unalaq's subsequent defeat, the Northern troops withdrew and the Southern Water Tribe gained complete independence from the North, with Tonraq chosen as its new chief.
The Water Tribe is less powerful than both the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation, due to its geographical location and the small size of its population and economy. The economy is dependent on the ocean, given the country's location and lack of arable land, apparent manufacturing capacity or minable resources.
The Water Tribe joined a global conflict known as the Hundred Year War against the Fire Nation during the life of Avatar Aang. The Southern Tribe was driven to the brink of extinction through a series of devastating raids, and the Northern Tribe proved unable to provide any resources for the War beyond its borders. With the War's conclusion, a reconstruction effort began for the Southern Tribe, consequently restoring contact between the two tribes.
Seventy years after the end of the Hundred Year War, the Water Tribe gained significant influence in world affairs, with two representatives on the United Republic Council, one for the Southern Tribe and another for the Northern Tribe. The latter's last representative, Tarrlok, was the council's chairman before his secret past was revealed in 170 AG. The Water Tribe lost its hand in the United Republic's government when the council was disbanded following the Anti-bending Revolution.