Nomads on Notice Essay
In “Nomads on Notice,” anthropologist Daniel Stiles describes the changing lifestyle of the Gabbra pastoralist. They are one of the numerous nomadic societies that are at odds with the industrial world. The unforgiving territory of Northern Kenya is divided among several tribes. They are all very fierce when it comes to defending their territory. This is very similar to what we have learned in class, relating to the Warrior Groups. The Warrior Groups are usually young males, around twelve years of age, whom protect their land, animals, and people. This region consists of 35,000 Gabbra pastoralists. They claim the dry and salty mud flats of the Chalbi Desert and the eastern shore of Lake Turkana. The Gabbra must move often, up to ten times a year. This is due to the scarcity and temporary nature of water sources and vegetation.
Camps would usually split and travel in smaller groups to accommodate the carrying capacity of the land. This is considered Pastoralism, another topic we have learned in class. Pastoralism is the ownership and control over domesticated animals that appear to be about ten thousand. They have more material items than hunting and gathering, but not as much as agriculturalists do. The Gabbra have very few possessions and can pack a settlement and be on their way within a number of hours. Gabbra societies are lead by married men. Their levels of authority are based on their age, how old they are. The main animals of Gabbra society are camels, goats, cattle, and sheep. The animals that provide milk are usually kept at the main camp. The animals that do not give milk are sent off to distant camps called fora, to prevent overgrazing. The fora serve as the border of tribal territories and they are run by young warriors, so they can prevent raids by other tribes.
Pastoral societies travel in small groups, usually less than one hundred. They travel frequently, usually every season, to find the most nourishing land for their livestock. In class, we have learned the same, such as they are nomadic with a seasonal around and they move and travel every season. Approximately one hundred through five hundred people will move together at a time. It is also heard for them to engage in a limited amount of horticulture. In class, we have learned that the term horticulture is control over land that they use no tools or factors whatsoever. Everything is done by hand, which means no irrigation or complex machinery. Almost all Pastoral societies consist of all male. In order to fulfill excellent labor needs, the Gabbra rely on their extended kinship and social ties for help.
People have large families and live as extended families in large households. Each male in the household may have a different herd to care for. Their duties and tasks may be paid for with food or stock offspring. People may obtain animals as gifts, inheritance, or on a loan. Due to this, it is difficult to figure exactly how many animals one Gabbra may own. The Gabbra does not allow someone to obtain more animals than he and his dependents actually need. If someone exceeds of their livestock, he would redistribute them to the needy as loans or gifts. We have also learned this in class, redistribution. Redistribution is where goods and services are sent to a central authority, and then given out to those who need it. This system of redistribution minimizes the burden placed on the environment.
The Gabbra usually store small portions of food, because they are in short supply. Although they are in short supply, the foods that they store can be kept for long periods of time. The recent problems that the Gabbra are facing are nothing new, but they are being heavily influenced to deal with them in much different manners by Westerners. Foreign relief services, missionaries, and government officials are not only providing food relief, but they are telling the Gabbra that their way of life is backwards and primitive.
This is an example of ethnocentrism, which is when one culture believes that another culture is wrong and their culture is superior. The lifestyle of the Gabbra can improve if the rain returns and neighboring countries regain stability. If the conditions do not improve, the Gabbra may be forced to change their way of life altogether. Many cultures have been destroyed or nearly destroyed, because of assimilation. People who attempt to assist Gabbra must understand that they must accept their way of life and not change it.
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