Traditional Samburu conservation methods is Milgis’ way forward…

Uh oh, Luca you are going to be busy!!…You cut these trees down in Samburuland, now you have to pay back the traditional way! Its one goat per tree and and a cleansing ceremony, in which … you need to slaughter the goat/sheep, mix the stomach contents, with the fat and pour the contents round each tree… Then you have be smeared in fat, and this can only be done by somebody who is ‘unclean’ … [Unclean meaning somebody who may have killed somebody, or has no home, a straggler lets say… In Kitchen Swahili we would call it a ‘tangatangera’…We have been delving further into the archives of the old traditional ways of conservation and its fascinating… WHERE AND WHY IS IT GOING WRONG?? … The Milgis Trust is going to try and ‘travel back down this old road’ and bring these strong rules back..

1… As I said above if you cut the branches off a tree, or cut it down you have to be cleansed, Moses Lesoloyia, our manager saw it in Baragoi area when he was a child… Woe betide you if you cut a tree that has been used for a big meeting, or special ceremony… Its just not done!

2… You can not kill an animal unless you intend to eat it… This is why the Zebras have survived in Samburu areas, as they will not eat any horse like animal..

3… If you hack the tusks out of a dead elephant, you will NEVER be able to go to a traditional Samburu ceremony again… You have to wait for the Elephant to rot, and you pull them out.. When the two Elephants died near the Milgis base in may, when the KWS [ kenya wildlife service ] arrived to check on the situation, and to take the tusks, they had to go back to base to find somebody of a different tribe to cut the tusks out, as the three men who came happened to be Samburu!! They could not risk leaving them on the elephant just in case a poacher or person looking for tusks to sell on, took them..

4.. If you kill a black animal you are unclean… IE if you kill a wild dog, then your children can not wear the traditional black skin during the circumcision time.. Also If somebody in your family kills an ostrich, then forever the children can not wear ostrich feathers in their head band after being circumcised..

Newly circumsised boys wearing the black skin, and the ostrich feathers.jpg The traditional black skin worn after the circumcision ceremony, and the ostrich feathers, LABARTAC, in the head band… possibly the guy on the left, comes from a family that killed an ostrich!! The Lesoloyia family can not wear these feathers because someone way back they don’t even know who, killed an ostrich…

This is a strange one!… If a grey animal comes into your boma/enclosure round your house.. This is a bad omen!… this includes dikdik, hare,warthog,elephant,rhino.. and any others.. They have to slaughter a goat… mix the blood, stomach contents, and fat together, and pour this mixture around the perimeter, and the elders will bless the boma… If you are knocked down by any of these grey animals you will be smeared with this same mixture, and again this has to be done by an unclean/hopeless person!! [literally translated] ie he is not going to lose any more by touching this concoction!!

We have a scout meeting at the end of tis month and will be talking about these traditions, and how we can bring them back… If you haven’t read the blog 21/12/08 it has lots more!!

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One Comment

  1. Stella
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    To Helen and all the Milgis Trust followers…

    I have been following Helen’s blog for some time now through the good times and bad, rain and drought, tears and joy and I have yet to post a comment – for this I apologise!

    I am very sure that I am not alone in saying that reading such wonderful snippets of life out on the Milgis Lugga with Helen’s vivid descriptions and adventurous and flourishing (although sometimes sad) stories of the trusts wonderful work, make whatever one might have to say pale in comparison…

    …but I now realise it is the words of support and advice as well as the act of sharing that makes these stories and calls for help spread far and wide and raise awareness where it is so desperately needed. So we can all play our part from any walk of life and interact together to maximise the Trust’s chance of continued success…

    And I’m going to start now (and if you haven’t interacted already – don’t be shy like I have been…get stuck in and share your thoughts)

    To Helen’s last blog I say…Luca you definitely had better get some goats ready and prepare yourself for some ‘messy cleansing’!!

    I think re-instilling the traditional Samburu conservation mechanisms will generate immediate benefits…I believe it will not only strengthen the Samburu’s community spirit, but it will reinstate a lost value and respect towards the environment that will change future attitudes in generations to come as it once did.

    But I do feel that even though tradition is desperately important in all cultures, modern-day customs and attitudes must merge in harmony with it to make it work…the youth of today, whether in Africa or anywhere else in the world, must be able to relate to and understand such traditional methods and why they are so important.

    It’s a great project and I’m sure with the Trust’s support it will have a great outcome.

    Sorry if I‘ve rambled on…I guess now I’ve started you’ll never get me to shut up : )


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  1. […] north of the Ndoto Mountains a beautiful ‘Sangilai’ or lone bull was shot dead, his tusks removed, (not by a Samburu I’m sure), with a saw at Seren… Only 5 years ago he would not have […]

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