The Maasai Tribe Essay

The Maasai Tribe Essay

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The Maasai are one of the many southern-most tribes located in Kenya. They are

physically related, and also in many other forms related to the Samburu and Turkana. The

Maasai have a relatively complex culture and traditions. In fact, for many years they were

unheard of. By the late 1800’s we soon discovered more about the Maasai, mostly from

their oral histories.

     It is presumed that the Maasai came from the north, probably from the region of

the Nile Valley in Sudan. Also presumed is that they left this area sometime between the

fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, migrating southwards towards he Great Rift Valley.

According to the Maasai oral history, they came from a crater or deep valley somewhere

to the north, at a place called Endikir-e-Kerio . Although many scholars have called

this place the southeastern region of Lake Turkana, many of the oral histories say that

they may have come from further up north, near the Nile river. Whichever location this

is, the migration was caused by a dry spell. According to the Maasai a bridge was

built, and after half the livestock and people had left the dry area, the bridge collapsed,

leaving back the other half of the population. These people later climbed out of the valley,

and were helped by the present day Somali, Borana and Rendille peoples. The Maasai later

entered Kenya, and moved south through the Rift Valley, where there was pasture for

their cattle. Because there was very little surface water, the Maasai resorted to pastoralism

instead of agriculture.     The Maasai have adapted to their environment to ensure survival

and the maintenance of their culture.

     The Maasai have adapted to the conditions of their environment through their

religious rituals, which function in keeping their political structure, and maintaining cattle

numbers. The idea of religion in the Maasai culture is attatched with the importance they

place on the stages of life. Spear indicates that for the Maasai, God is close yet completely

unknowable. Each ritual transition between age-groups is a step toward old age and

metaphorically a step toward God. According to Emily McAlpin in “The Maasai culture

and Ecological Conditions” the most important event in the ceremony is the

sharing of meat which brings all participants clos...

... middle of paper ...

... one is in this society, the more power attained.

     The most common form of sharing goods and distributing them is through allied

kin groups. There is no doubt sometimes disagreements amongst the Maasai people,

therefore most kin groups have an ally kin group. These are useful when a luxury item is

sought after and one group has it and is willing to lend or give it to the other, not a

necessity. When something is needed for survival, the whole society will help.



1.Cronk, Lee
2004 From Mukogodo To Maasai: Ethnicity and Cultural Change in Kenya (Westview Case Studies in Anthropology), Westview Press, pp. 27-35

2. Hetfield, Johnston
1997 The Maasai of East Africa (Celebrating the Peoples and Civilizations of Africa)
PowerKids Press; 1st ed edition, pp. 9-13

3.Spear, Walker
1993 Being Maasai: Ethnicity & Identity in East Afri Ca (Eastern African Studies),
Ohio University Press pp. 214-221

4.Kituvi, Mukhisa
1990 Becoming Kenyans: Socio-economic transformation of the pastoral Maasai (Drylands research series), Acts Press, pp. 193-201

5. Sankan, S.S. Ole
1985 The Maasai ,Kenya Literature Bureau, pp. 77-84

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