African CultureAfrican History

Brief History Of The Maasai Tribe – Culture And Tradition Of The People

The Maasai tribe is a group of Nilotic people that originated from South Sudan. They have their indigenous language called Maa and are close to the African Great Lakes region.

According to history, they began their migration from the down Nile Valley of Lake Turkana in the 15th century and arrived in Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania during the 17th century and early 18th century after conquering the inhabitants and indoctrinating some into their tradition and culture.

The Maasai people are mostly nomadic. Widely known to be herdsmen and fearsome warriors and hunters, as a story told how they took over the land from the original owners as they did to the people of Wakuafi Wilderness (Southeastern Kenya) and the Mombasa of the Kenya Coast.

In the 19th century, the Maasai came to its largest expanse, dominating mostly Kenya and part of Tanzania till the plague ’Maasai Emutai’ which means ‘Maasai Wipe Out’ in 1883 and 1902. Over half of the Maasai tribe were wiped out by drought, starvation, and sickness (Smallpox) after they lost most of their cattle to animal disease, Rinderpest.

According to a report by an explorer, there was no rainfall between 1897 and 1898. Their women were forced into a skeleton by the spell, with their warriors unable to crawl and vultures were patiently flying above waiting on whom to drop dead.

Around 1904 and in 1911, their lands in Kenya were taken away from them by the British while they were being forced out and those in Tanganyika which is now Tanzania mainland lost their lands at Mount Meru, Mountain Kilimanjaro and other highlands close to Ngorongoro amongst others to the British who converted it to Wildlife reserves and national parks.

They are one of the most famous tribes because of their links to the national parks and reserves; Amboseli National Park, Lake Nakuru National Park, Tsavo National Park, Nairobi National Park, Samburu National Park, and Maasai Mara Park in Kenya and Serengeti National Park and Tarangire National Park in Tanzania.



Their main source of living mainly came from their herds – they feed on meats and milk daily, and exchange cattle as a medium of payment, and medium of punishment as the offender is being asked to pay with a certain number of cattle.

They drink the blood of animals on occasions.

The Maasai tribes are monotheistic with Engai as their godEngai, a dual-in-nature god: Engai Narok which is the black god that is believed to be kind and generous, and Engai Na-Nyokie; god of vengeance.

They believe that Engai gave them all the cattle in the world so raiding to rustle from others is right as they are taking what was assigned to be theirs from god.

Brief History Of The Massai Tribe - Culture And Tradition Of The People
The Maasai dance group

Every 15 years, every boy between the age range of 12 – 25 who hasn’t been a member of the warrior sect would be initiated through unaesthetic circumcision. Their women on reaching adulthood will undergo genital mutilation rite called Emuatare and would be arranged for marriage with a Maasai man, as they believe that their men might reject any woman that hasn’t had her Emuatare.

The Maasai tribe is also known for their body modification like piercing and stretching of the earlobes, the extraction of the milk tooth in their early stage with belief that it stops diarrhea and vomiting.

Their women are believed not to be only for her husband but as well as his age grade in which the husband is expected to leave the bed for any visiting mate but it’s left for the wife to decide if she wants to sleep with the guest or not.


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Buchi Prinzy Henry
An African writer with cravings to unearth all stolen, hidden, and unheard glories of Afrika. Mental emancipation is my mission. I write on History Category at 54history.com

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