Vol. 16 #2
OleSeyanoi has died. I am sorry that he died, but I’m happy that he is out of the picture here in Endulen. It was the day of the cattle market, and as is their custom, the elders had come from far and wide to sit together, eat the news and drink. OleSeyanoi, a member of the village council, and, years ago, rich and influential, was among them. His influence and respect had deeply eroded in recent years as he continued to marry more wives that he couldn’t take care of and, at the same time, sold off more and more of his cattle to pay for his heavy drinking.
The day of the cattle market was a day of heavier than usual drinking. I had rained heavily all day long and the elders had mostly done their drinking in the tent set up at the cattle market as an impromptu bar. By evening, the stream in the valley they lies between Endulen village and the and the small mountain where OleSeyanoi and his friends have their villages was in full spate. The old men followed the path that wound its way down the hill from the shops and stopped in muddled surprise on the bank of the stream. It was rushing by at a great rate and instead of its usual slow moving placid depth of a couple of inches, it was now at least a couple of feet deep and rushing angrily over its’ rocky bottom. The ten-foot width was to far to jump and they were afraid to wade through the rushing water in their unsteady condition. All but OleSeyanoi decided to return to the shops for the night. He, with great bravado shouted over the sound of rushing water that he must reach his crawl that night to see that all his cattle had returned home safely. Ignoring the protests of his friends, he stepped off the bank in the gathering darkness to take the four or five steps that would be needed to cross the rushing water. The elders shouted to him as he was swallowed by the gloom but their shouts were snatched away by the wind and driving rain, as was any response that OleSeyanoi tried to make. Whether he slipped on a rock or simply was knocked over by the rushing water remains a mystery. His body was found the next morning some two hundred feet further along the stream.
It was a sad death for his family of nine wives and many children, although he took little care of them. As is dictated by Maasai custom, his brothers will divide up his cattle and take care of his family. The second sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t.
OleSeyanoi has been an enemy of education during all of my fifteen plus years here in Endulen. In the early years, he not only fought not only the education of girls but also that of the boys. As more Maasai boys joined our prep school and went off to secondary school, he became reconciled to the education of some of the boys, but remained to the day he died, a strong adversary of girls going to school. He systematically encouraged his fellow elders to take the few girls out of our local primary school long before they finished grade 7, the final year. Thus, there was no chance that they go to secondary school, because they had been long since taken to the crawls of their husbands. My efforts to fight this situation came in for a lot of opposition from OleSeyanoi and his cohorts, the locally politically powerful. Fortunately, when he hauled me into court on three different occasions over the years, accusing me of taking married women and sending them to secondary school, I was able to win by appealing to the central government representatives in the area. The government of Tanzania is theoretically on the side of the women who want an education, so I was always on solid ground pleading their right to go on in school. It was true that theoretically they were “married”, in fact in two of the cases they had been promised and so had “husbands” since they were five and eight years old respectively. In the third instance, the girl was taken to the crawl of her “husband” as a sixth grader so that she could not go on to secondary school. Here in Maasai country marriage doesn’t take place just on the day the girl is taken to the crawl of her husband. It is a process that can begin ten or more years earlier, sometimes before the girl is born culminating when she leaves her parent’s crawl and travels to the home of her husband.
We now have our young Maasai women in leadership positions in many aspects of Maasai life here in Northern Maasai country:
• Two Maasai assistant nurses in Endulen hospital
• Two are beginning two years of advanced studies in village outreach education programs, One in the “Maendaleo ya Jamii” school in Iringa Tanzania and the other in a school by the same name in Musoma Tanzania
• One of our girls will graduate as a fully registered nurse in 2001. She will have a specialty in Pediatrics.
• Veterinary assistant at Ngorongoro Conservation
• Maasai girl in third year of registered nursing school at Huruma hospital on Mount Kilimanjaro
• Veterinary assistant in Simanjiro district of Maasai country
• Three girls working full time in the Maasai villages doing extension programs for the betterment of the lives of Maasai women
• Another is now working as an assistant nurse at our government clinic here at Ngorongoro.
• Two are now taking advanced language courses so that they may join the advisory council on tourism to the Conservation Authority of Ngorongoro.
• Others have gotten into local government on the village level.
Others have returned home to be married to our educated Maasai boys, many of who are also products of our push to develop leaders among the Maasai. The graduates to date have all returned to Maasai country and are reintegrated into the community.