ORIGIN AND LANGUAGE OF THE MAASAI
From their original dispersal point Sudan, the Maasai ancestors moved southwards settling first to the east of the Riftvalley, that is the area between Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Taita hills. The Maasai were probably closely related to the proto- Kalenjin (original Kalenjin speakers) but they later developed separately and by 1500 there languages and cultures were quite different During the 17th century the Maasai were approaching the height of their power as they moved into the Uasin Gishu plateau and by the 18th century they had spread North West to the Laikipia and Samburu uplands and south into Tanzania as as far as the country of the Gogo. The Maasai speak Maa or OlMaa which is a member of the Nilo Saharan language family, they are also educated in the official and national languages of Kenya and Tanzania. ECONOMIC ACTIVITY OF THE MAASAI
The Maasai were pastoralists (they practiced animal husbandry). Cattle were herded for their milk, blood, skins, hides and sometimes meat. They also kept sheep and donkeys. The Maasai create ties of kinship and common interest through intermarriage and trade. The Maasai needed vegetable and grain and they thus traded with the Bantus especially the Kikuyu in exchange for soda, skins, beads and cowrie shell which the Maasai caravan carried. In other trade activities they would exchange hides, milk and butter for beans, millet, tobacco, red ochre, sugar cane, pots, calabashes and weapons. The Maasai controlled a number of trade routes so that traders wishing to cross their territory were forced to pay for the privilege. Men herded the cattle and the women milked them; the women were also the ones who went to the market places to exchange their goods.
From the fact that the Maasai have never had a permanent settlement or rather they have been pastoralists since time in memorial. They are one of the best and strong communities which have been able to retain their cultures and lifestyle despite being forced by leaders and others to change their way of living. Majority of other communities have changed their cultures and lifestyles due to influence from the Western and other different cultures as well. Though the Maasai did not have a permanent way of life, they had a form of leadership which governed them. Their form of government was not centralized. Leadership was exercised through the system of clans, age groups and age- sets which were under the council of elders. The council of elders guided them by giving them advice on the best way to live their lives and also punished those who went against the laws, so everyone ensured that they obeyed the laws and always did what was right. The Maasai leadership was hereditary, which meant that after the death of their top leader their sons would take over. Among the Maasai there also existed a system of ritual leadership based on the Oloiboni. Supet was the first known such leader followed by Mbatian and on his death the authority was claimed by Sendeyo and Lenana. There were a number of warriors who had graduated and their responsibility was to provide fighting forces during wars so that they could protect their territory. The territories were expanded through the conquest of other communities. They also held a ceremony which marked the graduation of morans into junior elders and was called Eunoto. Finally, though not least, the Maasai elders who had retired from public life became consultants in the community. People would consult them to help them solve political issues, to settle disputes and even take charge of any matter that needed their involvement.
THE MAASAI CULTURE
Culture can simply be defined as a way of life. When we think of the culture of the Maasai people the first thing that comes to our minds are such things as the image of men wearing red capes while balancing on one leg and a long spear gazing over the semi-arid plains of Maasai...
References: • East African Through a Thousand Years; third edition; Gideon S. Were, Derek A. Wilson
• A History of East Africa; E. S. Atieno, T. I. Ouso, J. F. M Williams.
• Arhem, K.
1981. A Pastoral Food System: The Ngorongoro Maasai in Tanzania. Dar es Salaam: University of Dar es Salaam. (BRALUP Research Paper, 70)
1985a. The Maasai and the State. The Impact of Rural Development Policies on a Pastoral People in Tanzania. Copenhagen. (IWGIA Document, 52)
1985b. Pastoral Man in the Garden of Eden. The Maasai of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania. Uppsala: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies.
• Anthropos, Bd. 84, H. 1./3. (1989), pp. 1-23.
• Dahl, G., and A. Hjort (1976) Having Herds. Pastoral Herd Growth and Household Economy. Stockholm: University of Stockholm. (Stock- holm Studies in Social Anthropology,2)
• 1979 Pollution and Pastoral Antipraxis: The Issue of Maasai Inequality. American Ethnologist 6: 803-816
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