Vol. 18, #5
7th… Now that it is raining and people are beginning to drink milk, the long dry season and accompanying hunger seem like a bad dream. Recently, I ran across a description of the famine that took place at the turn of the century, about the year 1900…
Long ago there was a time when great suffering came to the Maasai people. The cattle were finished and without cattle there wasn’t much the Maasai could do to help themselves. In those days there was no rain for many months and drought covered the land of the Maasai. There came a time when the Maasai had nothing more to eat. Everywhere in Maasai country the people became frantic to find something to fill their stomachs. Some Maasai sold their children to the Kikuyu tribe to get something to eat. The Maasai scattered, some going to the Kikuyu to live in the highlands and others going to other of the farming peoples, like the Chagga of Mount Kilimanjaro. Others killed and ate their donkeys. Still others went to live in the forest to collect honey, wild fruit and hunt wild animals like the Dorobo hunter gatherers. The Maasai did these things before they were totally finished off by the famine. If they had not scattered and done these things, they would have been totally finished off, since there was no food of any kind to be found in Maasai country. This was the time when lived the warriors whose age group was called “ilmirisho”. They were the ones that ate the donkeys. The right hand of this age group of warriors is known as the ilTuati and during the famine, the left hand of their age group called “iLemek had not yet been circumcised. (Translation mine).
15th… Today is cattle market day here in Endulen. The village of Endulen is a small trading center some eighteen miles from the Ngorongoro Crater. There are some small shops here, but twice a month the population grows many times over as traders come from far and wide to set up open air shops. To the “cattle market” come the semi-nomadic Maasai from great distances. They come to buy sugar, tea, salt, corn meal, and the white, red, and tartan like “shuka” material worn by the men, which they wear draped over their shoulders toga fashion. Sold too, is the multi colored cloth worn by the women. They “shop for these things with the cash they get from the sale of their milk and butter or from the sale of a cow or goat. The highlight of the market is always the cattle auction, which also gives the Maasai access to the money needed for major expenses like getting married.
Three herds of cattle have been taken by the Sukuma on cattle market day from Osinoni, an area about an hour west of Endulen. The Sukuma live to the West of the Serengeti. The word of mouth report indicates that the total number of cattle stolen were between 150 and 200. Most of the people and, critically, most of the warriors were off at the cattle market, so there were few warriors around to fight off the raid. A Maasai speared killed one Sukuma warrior, but the rest got away with the cattle. The Maasai are at a disadvantage since they have only spears and short swords, whereas the Sukuma raiders have rifles; it is alleged, often rented from the police. The Maasai followed the cattle, but did not catch up before the raiding party had reached Sukuma country and dispersed disappeared with the cattle among the Sukuma villages. The police in Sukuma country are very reluctant to search out stolen cattle from Maasailand.
21st…I have just received word that three of my Maasai girls have been accepted into secondary school (high school) at Ngarenarok, a good school run by sisters. I am still hoping to get two more accepted somewhere else.
Till next month…