Introduction / History
The Bagyele people are hunter-gatherers who live in the Bagyele forest on the southern coast of Cameroon. The forest covers some 12,000 square kilometers and there are between 10 and 40 people per square kilometer. The Bagyele are organized into clans and are becoming more sedentary as they begin to practice agriculture. Traditionally, they believe in one supreme god but they also give prominence to spirits who protect and help with the hunt. Many now earn cash by serving as traditional healers for other groups around them.
They say, "We are the masters of the forest and we were the first to open the road through the forest to the ocean for the other peoples who followed behind us". But, their knowledge of the forest is not the only trait that brings them pride. They are also known for their storytelling, dance, and expertise in hunting.
Gathered around the fire at night one might hear this story of the Bagyele: Once there were three men who went into the forest to hunt. One carried some meat to eat, one had some cassava wrapped in leaves, and one had a dog. After going some distance, they stopped to eat. The man with the cassava offered to share with the man who had some meat to add variety to his meal. The two sat and ate. The man with the dog just sat by and watched. After the men finished eating, they threw the leaves that had wrapped their meal into the forest. The dog, attracted by the lingering smell, went to lick the leaves. There the dog found a treasure and barked to warn his master of his find. Thus began a big argument - to whom did the treasure belong? The man with the meat insisted it was his - it was the smell of the meat that attracted the dog to the treasure. The man with the cassava insisted it should be his - it was his leaf that the dog licked when he found the treasure. Of course, the owner of the dog thought it should be his; after all, it was his dog that found it. There the story ended - no result was told.
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