Introduction / History
The Tugen are highland nilotes (native to Upper Nile region), a Kalenjin group also known as Kamasia. They occupy the lowlands of the Rift Valley. The Kerio Valley and Kamasia Hills bound their home west and east respectively. The Tugen live on two levels, the Highland Tugens also known as South Tugen or Sammor and the North Tugen also known as Arror. The South Tugen are mainly pastoralists but practice more agriculture because their land has adequate rainfall. The North Tugen are nomadic pastoralists but keep a few sheep and goats.
Their lowland area has little rainfall but they are able to grow millet and maize to supplement their meat diet. The floor of the Valley gives them good ranging areas for their cows including the Lake Baringo area. Their cattle herds are a source of great wealth and prestige. Historically, they ambushed passing caravans, which is related to the cattle rustling that still goes on. Cattle are sometimes shared for insurance. However, the North Tugen are very industrious and were the first to seek employment on the farms south of North Tugen. Their medicine men are famous among the Nandi. They are skilled in making poisonous arrows for trading with their neighbors.
Their homes are circular huts with a center post of cedar, which is designated as a sacred place for ancestors. Walls are mud-plastered and roofs are thatched with leaves. Lately more and more people are using wood, stone and other modern facilities in their homes. They sometimes use the Kalenjin Bible, but linguists have determined that Tugen speech varies from Kalenjin enough to be considered a distinct language. Tugen is linguistically similar to Samburu and Maasai. For instance, greetings will be similar among Samburu, Maasai and North Tugen. However, their primary identity has been affected by their political identity as Kalenjins. African Inland Mission has done extensive work among the Tugens.
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