Migration and settlement
The Maasai do not recall just when they left their Nilotic homeland in the Sudan.
This suggests that their exodus was not a single event but a very long
process of north to south movement that took place over more than
2000 years. They do remember when they left the hot floor of the
Kenyan Rift Valley and followed the Kerio River southwest until it
guided them onto the well watered range lands just east of Mt. Elgon.
Once they arrived into the Kenyan Highlands where they pushed aside
other pastoralists, they also cultivated long lasting exchange
relationships with neighouring agricultural people. This rescued them
to a great extent from the periodic famines that are such a very
great challenge to cattle keepers without reliable agricultural
In the north they were close neighbours of pastoral Dasenech, Turkana, Gabbra, Rendille,
Boran, and Pokot who were all confined to less productive range lands
on the periphery of the northern Maasai (Samburu and Chamus).
The southern Maasai occupied a long broad tongue of semi arid land
bounded by sixteen agricultural peoples : the Meru, Embu, Kikuyu,
Kama, Taita, Usambaa, Parakuyo, Larush, Iraqw, Tatoga, Kuria, Gusii,
Luo, Kipsigis, Nandi, Maraquet and Elgeyo. The Maasai are the
southernmost Nilotic speakers of Africa and their homeland includes
the range lands of the Boma Plateau bounded in the south by the
waters of the Sobat River which flows from the Ethiopian Highlands
into the White Nile and the Sudd just south of Malakal.
Tragedy struck the Maasai tribe at the turn of the century. An epidemic of deadly
diseases*chemical colonial weapon, attacked and killed large numbers
of the Maasai´s animals. This was quickly followed by severe drought
that lasted years. Over half of the Maasais and their animals
perished during this period. Soon after, more than two thirds of the
Maasai´s land in Kenya was taken away by the British and the Kenyan
government to create both ranches for settlers and Kenya and
Tanzania´s wildlife reserves and national parks. They lost a lot of
their range lands and since that time their once open range lands
have been reduced by many national parks and modern conservation
Non the less, the maasai population more than doubles every 20 years and the
population has reported as numbering 840,000 in Kenya in the 2009
census, compared to 377,000 in 1989 and 400,000 in 2000. With a near
constant cattle population per-capita, Maasai cattle wealth is
reduced by the increase in people. While it is true that many of
their range lands, particularly in the north, bear little resemblance
in wildlife abundance and richness compared to just the last few
decades, it is also true that in many areas Maasai owned wildlife
sanctuaries are increasingly some of the best managed and productive conservation estates in Africa.They’ve been sharing this habitat harmoniously with the “wildlife”
since time in memorial, respecting each others existence and boundaries.It is the duty of the Marsai to highlight and help preserve the values of humanity and existance of the Maasai of which we are all. Though the marsai can only be one in the world at a give time, the philosophy has been able to attract and influence many other people to realise ther real identity, that they are also Marsai’s. This has continued to add on to the numbers of the Mar sai family.
Values of the Marsai.
- Life is the most important goal in life and living it in the best way possible should be the priority.
- Not rehearsing life.
- Acknowledging the basic as the fundamentals of life and thus the need to use them with respect
- Valuing respect above all the rest. This is respect to all, i.e. Environment.
- Humanity should be the living law.
- One is above none and only serving his/her special purpose in life.
- A positive and prevailing attitude toward nature?
- Sharing in the ownership of the four basic elements of life, water, air, fire and land.