Akie

Introduction

The Akie are an ethnically and linguistically distinct Indigenous people predominantly  living In Tanzania’s vast Northern plains. In 2000 this group had a registered population of 5,268. The Akie are also known by the name Mosiro or as members of the Dorobo, an umbrella term for Indigenous groups hailing from Kenya and Tanzania. Locally they are known to the Maasai by the derogatory term ‘Iltorobo’- meaning ‘one without cattle.’

The Akie speak a Kalenjin dialect, part of the Niltoic group of languages. Their particular dialect suggests a relationship to Northern Kenyan tribes such as The Okiek, this has led to speculation about The Akie’s historical migrations as the linguistic evidence would suggest that they moved southwards into Tanzania at some point.

With this move seems to have come a change in subsistence strategies. If they did indeed migrate southward in the past The Akie probably led a semi-nomadic existence practicing animal husbandry like the Maasai and other Doroban groups who keep cattle. However they are now Hunter Gatherers and small scale cultivators. The Akie are an example of the phenomena of groups returning to supposedly more ‘primitive’ strategies. This has proved an important factor in the ‘Revisionist debate’, helping to challenge notions that people like the Akie are backward rather than optimally adapted to their ‘new’ environment.

More recently The Akie’s lifeways have changed once again. It has been ascertained that, post migration, they used to live in definite clan territories relating to notions of ancestral ownership and also to family access to resources such as Baobab and honey by family groups. Animals were however, free to be hunted by anyone revealing the openness of boundaries, probably necessary with regards to the harsh environment and variable rainfall. Today though The Akie’s territory has decreased dramatically due to agricultural concessions, poaching and Maasai encroachment. This has limited Akie mobility and forced them into more permanent settlement and heavier reliance on cultivating crops such as Maize, however, as these crops are not reliable The Akie retain a great deal of knowledge of the flora and fauna of their home land.

The Akie are well known for their prowess as hunter gatherers. Chief amongst their impressive armory of skills is the symbiotic relationship they maintain with the Greater Honeyguide bird which they call to and subsequently follow in order to find honey which is of great social value to the group. After then climbing gargantuan trees, pacifying the bees all using only vine, axe and smoke the hunters leave a little honey and comb for the bird to ensure this special relationship continues.

Though they are commonly described by their Tanzanian countrymen as backward The Akie are fighting hard to maintain their traditional practices and the special link they have with their lands and environment they continue to rely on.

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