The name of the district is derived from Subansiri river, its stream twin river Kurung and Kumey. The Subansiri river is the tributary of Brahmaputra river, that flows from Tibet.By a Govt. of India Notification of 1914, the area covered by this district become a part of the ” Northern Section” of the “North East Frontier Track” within which entire British subject was regulated by a Inner Line in 1919. This Track was renamed as the “Subansiri Frontier Track” with the name of Kimin Sub-Agency and its Headquarter continued to be at Lakhimpur-Kimin.

In 1954, was renamed as the Subansiri Frontier Division and its headquarter was transferred to Ziro-Yangte (Kurung Kumey) like other parts of NEFA, it was also under the Ministry of External Affairs and over-all in-charge of the district was a Political Officer.

Later on Subansiri Frontier Division was renamed as Lower Subansiri district and the Political Officer was redesigned as Deputy Commissioner.

The Kurung Kumey district was bifurcated from Lower Subansiri district in the year 2001.