Vol.: 16, #11
Warrior attacked by lion…
This week a warrior herding cattle near the mission was badly mauled by a lion. He was with other warriors grazing a very large herd of cattle on a broad grassy plain. A full-grown male lion, lurking in the bush on the edge of the open area charged the herd. It hoped to grab a calf and rush back into the bush. One of the warriors, OleKando, was very alert and near the lion’s path of attack. He rushed at the lion, brandishing his spear, hope to chase it off. His strategy failed and the lion turned his attack on the teenager. By the time the other warriors were able to get to him, he had been badly bitten and mailed by the claws of the lion. OleKando is now at the hospital with his left thigh in a pretty sorry state, but the sisters say that he will recover.
Fire Destroys Two Homes…
Nosim EnOleKaika and Enditoenkai EnOleMoinga lost their homes to fire this week. This time of year is very dry and grass fires are rampant. It is the time of year that the women go to cut the long dry grass for building the grass roofs for the cow dung plastered igloo like homes. This way of building has become very popular here in the Ngorongoro area. When a beehive is found, the way to calm the bees for plundering is smoke. Often these small fires are not carefully extinguished and grass fire results. Also some are started intentionally to reduce the tick population, always a problem in the highlands. The Maasai say too that the grass returns stronger, thicker and more nourishing to the cattle, if the land is burned. It was the middle of the afternoon and the women of OleMangi’s village were sitting under a shade tree near the houses of the village doing their bead work and watching the small children, who in turn were watching the small goats. A racing grass fire was seen on the horizon and the women raced to create a firebreak. They cut the grass short with their “panga’s”, long broad knives used for grass cutting, house pole shaping and firewood cutting. Before the fire arrived they were able to get a fair firebreak made, but errant sparks from the blaze jumped the brake and landed on the roofs of two houses. The vulnerable grass roofs exploded into flames and the two houses were consumed in minutes. No people or animals were hurt but the household utensils, the carefully prepared skins that cover the beds; skin ropes and personal belongings were all lost. Because Maasai homes are so vulnerable to fire, people feel it is bad luck to say, “The house burned down”. Instead they say: “Water took the house”.
Cultivation forbidden at Ngorongoro…
The prime minister held a meeting at Ngorongoro to announce that no more maize and bean plots are permitted within the Conservation area of Ngorongoro. Cultivation of small plots has been allowed since 1993 has made a big difference to the Maasai people. Few have sufficient cattle to get them through the year without some major periods of real hunger, and their corn and bean plots helped people through the difficult periods. Also the prime minister announced that the Maasai will no longer be permitted to take their cattle into the crater to the salt licks bordering the salt lake, something the Maasai have been accustomed to doing from time immemorial. The response of the Maasai has been for the elders, women and warriors to hold meeting separately and together for the last number of days. They have decided to send a delegation to Dar-es-Salaam to talk to the president. The Maasai delegation hopes to be led by the Ngorongoro Member of Parliament, OleTiman, himself a Maasai. The meetings decided that each person would contribute what they can for the trip, at least the Tanzanian equivalent of $1.25 and that those able would sell a cow to finance the trip.
Lion Victim Recovering…
OleKando, the warrior that was attacked by a lion is doing much better. He is still in the hospital, but is now up and walking around. Amazing, kids heal fast. He is saying that next time a lion tries to take a calf when he is herding, he’ll look for help to chase the lion away. He told me that he wouldn’t try it again on his own. I wonder how long that resolution will last.
Ngorongoro Maasai travel to Capital Protesting Cultivation Ban….
A delegation of twelve Maasai men and women has gone off to Dar-es-Salaam led by our member of parliament. The delegation is the result of numerous meetings of the Maasai of both sexes and all age groups here in the Conservation area. The Maasai have determined that the forbidding of the limited cultivation that has been permitted since 1992 will bring real hardship to the pastoral people. They have come to depend on the supplementary source of food in the form of corn and beans. The Maasai have been able to grow these crops most years on their small plots to augment the limited amount of milk people get from their cattle.
We had a small party for our Prep School graduating class today. They are now off to look for places in secondary (high schools) and technical schools. For those of you who read the last diary, the winners of the game contest were a couple of students who created a board game modeled on the Maasai game of moving stones representing cattle along a series of holes in the ground. Whoever amasses the most cattle wins. The winner of the toy contest was a boy who sculptured a cow out of clay and hardened it in the fire. It was a great sculpture but a short lived toy.
Cultivation has been granted for three more years! Our delegation returned from seeing the president yesterday with the news that he has granted the Maasai of Ngorongoro three more years to cultivate their small plots of beans and corn. Radio Dar-es-Salaam also announced it yesterday. I am sure the media attention helped too in reversing the decision.
Till next month…