Ethnically, the Samburu are plain Nilotes, a superlinguistic branch of the “maa” peoples. These are: masaai, Lshamus, Sampur and Laikipiak. Historically, they settled in Kenya centuries ago from “woto” (the north). The Samburu settled in the northern areas of Kenya (whilst the Maasai drifted south and settled in a belt stretching from Maasai Mara to Arusha). They are pasturalists, keeping livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, camels and donkeys. Their normal diet is milk, some vegetables and meat. More recently they have adopted "western" foods. They wear traditional costumes of woven fabrics, animal skins, wool blankets, ochre, beads and other ornaments. The community is continually spreading throughout the district and beyond the borders of Samburu. The district is located in north-eastern part of the Rift valley bordering Marsabit, Turkana, Isiolo, Laikipia and Baringo. The tribe is strongly rooted in its culture, norms beliefs and values. Many are committed Christians.

Tribally the tribes are divided into age groups namely:- Lkiteku, Llkipiku, Ltarigirik, Lmarikon, Lterito, Lmirisho, Lkileku, lmekuri, Lkimaniki, Lkishili, Lkiroro and Lmooli there are nine clans including Ntolu (axe). There are eight types of cattle that are farmed consisting of white and black cattle. The white cattle are termed Lorokushu, Lukumae, Long’eli and Loimisi. The black cattle, Lmasula, Lpisikishu, Lngwesi and Lnyaparae.

They have a strong oral tradition, passing down their history and customs through stories and riddles. These fascinating tales are given to the children of the tribes around crackling fires inside the Manyattas, or under moonlit skies in the arid plains around the villages. Adding to the magic and impressing upon the minds of future generations the importance of the Samburu and respect for the land, the animals and their elders.

The Samburu calendar is important to determine the seasons, times of drought. Rituals and rains. Elders of the tribe have a mystical knowledge of these seasons and, without calendars, can determine the correct time for every activity. Certain families who have this heuristic foresight are consulted before every tribal event is planned.


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