The region has four paramount chiefs, namely: the Yaa Na based in Yendi; the Yagbon Wura in Damango; the Bimbila Naa in Bimbila; and the Nayiri in Nalerigu. Each represents a major ethnic group. The major ethnic groups of the region are the Mole Dagbon, (52.2%) the Gurma, (21.8%) the Akan and the Guan (8.7%). Among the Mole-Dagbon, the largest subgroup are the Dagomba and the Mamprusi, while the Komkomba are the largest of the Gurma, the Chokosi of the Akan and the Gonja of the Guan. The Dagomba constitute about a third of the population of the region.
The indigenous languages spoken by the people vary from district to district. The Gonja language is spoken mostly in three districts, namely East Gonja, West Gonja and Bole. Dagbani, the language of the Dagomba, is spoken in nine of the thirteen districts. The Kokomba language is spoken mainly in some parts of Saboba-Chereponi, Zabzugu Tatale, East Gonja and Nanumba, Districts. More than half of the population of the region (56.2%) are Muslims. The rest are largely adherents of Traditional religion (21.3%), Christians (19.3%) and other religious groups (3.3%).