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Ethnography Of The Maasai Essay

1168 words - 5 pages

Within the Maasai culture there are several political decision makers. One decision maker is the father in a family unit. The father can decide where his children live within the kraal, which is an enclosed settlement. Another part of the decision making process in the Maasai culture are the elders of the clan. Another group that participates in the Maasai’s process of making decisions are the warriors. Warriors are the young men of a tribe; boys become warriors after they are circumcised. Thus decisions are made by elders, the head of the kraal, and by fathers in a tribe.
Politically, prior to 1961 the British ruled over Tanganyika. Many of the Maasai people were not completely aware of British government because they maintained rule over themselves. Tepilit depicts a political scene where his father had no idea that the British ruled over Tanganyika. The Maasai were unaware because of the subtle way that the British used the chiefs to create and carry out the policies that the British wanted. This method of government, constructed in such a way led Tepilit’s father to be ignorant of the leadership until it ended in 1961. Tepilit’s father, however, was correct on a smaller scale because Maasailand was not under direct influence of the British rule. Tepilit even states that one Maasai rule infers that if direct interference occurs then “Rebellion would be inevitable” (Saitoti 41).
Tepilit’s father, as the head of the kraal participates in all decision of the clan. A kraal is a village of huts that are surrounded by bushes of thorns that are used to keep predators away. Whenever an important decision needs to made the head of the kraal will gather the warriors and youth in order to consult with them on the matter. One example from Tepilit’s life is when, in 1966, Mount Lengai erupted. The eruption caused “Poisonous volcanic ash” (Saitoti 57) to spew into the sky and onto the land. Cattle, as they grazed, consumed much of the ash and became sick. The sick cattle were then unable to awaken without support from a human. When Tepilit’s father called together the people of the kraal, he informed them that they had to move, lest their people start dying like the cattle. As head of the kraal, Tepilit’s father encouraged the group as they traveled to ensure that not only the people, but the cattle made it safely away. Cattle, to the Maasai, are very important and it is seen as a sacred task to take care of the animals. Therefore when some of the livestock would fall over Tepilit’s father would plead for the creatures to be helped. As head of the clan, Menye Tepilit, berated those that grew tired of having to travel with the sick cattle because of how important cattle are to the Maasai people. Another job that the head of the kraal conducts would be choosing which cattle to sell or give away as gifts. This is an important job because the head is also choosing whose cattle to send away. The elders of the Maasai Tribe use the moon the help...

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