Often we read articles on how a particular animal is critically endangered. It is rare to hear on the news that a tribe is on the verge of extinction. Well, the Yaaku tribe is one tribe that is currently facing extinction.
The tribe has an estimated population of 4000 people, and there are only few surviving people of the tribe who can fluently speak Yaakunte – which is their cultural identity. The elderly are afraid that the new generation will not know how to speak their beautiful language.
However, before we assess the tribe’s extinction, Let’s have a glimpse of the history of the Yaaku Tribe.
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History Of Yaaku Tribe
According to Mukogodo traditions records, Yaaku people were originally from Ethiopia, but they migrated to Kenya around the 18th Century and integrated with the Rendile tribe. Yaaku which translates to hunting according to Southern Nilotic term are hunting gathering population.
The Yaaku settled in the Mukogodo forest in the Rift Valley. They were mostly hunters and beekeepers. Later in the 19th century, the Maasai tribe came to settle in their land. The Maasai referred to them as “Ntorobo,” which means poor people without livestock.
The Yaaku people had to assimilate themselves with the Maasai as it was their only way to gain wealth. This assimilation also made them to learn the Maasai language. The women from the Yaaku tribe would also get married off to the Maasai community. This action did contribute to the deconstruction of their tribe.
Documentation of The Yaaku Tribe
In 2010, the Yaaku tribe managed to document their language in a dictionary. This happened after they registered a community-based organization that would follow up the process. The organization would help preserve the bits and bits of pieces left of their tradition. The Yaaku tribe is keen on holding on to what’s left of their culture. The tribe has documented their early life at the Yaaku Cultural Museum in Dol Dol, Laikipia.
The museum holds the weapons the people used to hunt and the storage devices they used to store honey and meat. The museum also has the tribe’s footwear, stools, and knives. The museum also illustrates the transition of Yaaku’s hunting and gathering to cattle rearing.
Having a museum to preserve their culture is among a few of things the Yaaku have done to save their traditions.
Here are some of the attempts the people have done to keep the language alive.
Attempts To Save The Dying Language
The Yaaku now live In Dol Dol Laikipia. At their local school, there are teachers devoted to teaching the young generation Yaakunte.
The educators teach the students the language once every two weeks. There are even charts that act as an aid to help the kids learn faster. The Yaaku has proposed to incorporate the Yaaku words into the Maasai language. The elders believe by doing this will help ensure that the language does not die completely.
In 2019, there was an annual cultural festival that helped rekindle the hope of the Yaaku Tribe. The ethnic minority and marginalized affairs department collaborated with the community to help the festival come to life.
The cultural festival helps bring together the people of the Yaaku community and their neighbors while showcasing their traditional regalia. The young generation is also taught about their culture at the festival.
The Yaaku tribe hopes that the annual festival will keep their language alive. Most Yaaku people feel they would have done more to protect their tribe and hope their ancestors are not disappointed. As the community slowly dwindles, they hope that the government of Kenya will help revive their culture.