The Maasai

Tall, lean, wrapped in a red and black tunic-like “shuka,” a Maasai warrior stands, at one with his six-foot spear in the searing heat. That is the iconic image most conjure of these lion-killing masters of the sub-Saharan African grasslands. Not unlike Native Americans, the Maasai were pushed from their ancestral land early last century. When Kenya shed colonialism, they were further marginalized by waves of economic change. Today the Maasai are a semi-nomadic people facing constraints never imagined by their ancestors. Each generation faces a rending choice to hold to their nomadic heritage or move to an urban center and embrace a new lifestyle.

· Climate change, population growth, and territorial loss has put the Maasai’s cattle-centric existence at risk

· Of necessity, the legendary rite of passage for young men - the lion hunt, has passed into antiquity leaving a void in Maasai culture

· As they transition, the Maasai face a crisis in overcoming marginalization and meeting basic needs

What one person can do…

There is a network of Maasai-led non-profit organizations seeking to enable their people without forcing cultural burdens they cannot bear. For example, one community has organized a church but without the expense and weight of western conventions. In keeping with traditional norms, their gathering place is the shade of a designated tree. Another team brings appropriate technology to dig boreholes so they can water their cattle. Literacy is a keen focus for most families and another program engages in building, equipping, and operating schools for basic education and trade skills.

· Support agencies working to further story-telling skills as a means to convey life-changing truths in the face of endemic illiteracy

· Use discernment in selecting safari and conservation tourism experiences

· Read more about the people and tribes of Kenya striving for a conflict-free Africa