This Kenya tribe is also frequently called the "Boni", thought the correct name for these people is Aweer. The Aweer is a small and very isolated tribe found by the coast of Kenya, near the border with Somalia. There are only around 4,000 Aweer people left. This Kenya tribe is best known for its unusual practice of using semi-domesticated birds to find honey, with whistling signals. The Aweer are mostly Muslim, like other coastal tribes. Their remote territory is heavily wooded and the tribe are traditionally hunter-gathers, rather than the typical Kenyan cattle herders.
The Bajuni territory is mainly along the coast in Somalia, but with some villages in northern Kenya. The islands in the Indian Ocean near Kismayo are mainly populated with Bajuni people. Naturally, their traditional way of life is as fishermen and sailors. Their language is called Kibajuni, and it is very similar to the popular Swahili of the region. These people are very isolated, and there are between 4,000 and 10,000 of them left.
The Bukusu are actually a sub-group of the larger Luhya tribe, living near Mount Elgon in the Western Province of Kenya. They are an agricultural people who live in extended family groups, with husbands traditionally having more than one wife. This Kenya tribe keeps large herds of cattle for food and as measures of wealth. Unlike many other pastoral tribes, the Bukusu are not nomadic and live in permanent villages. Compared to the rest of the Luhya tribe, the Bukusu people live the most traditionally and have not accepted many modern changes to their way of life. Former Kenyan vice-president, Michael Wamalwa Kijana is from the Bukusu tribe. The tribe is often politically active, particular with the FORD-Kenya party.
The Dahalo tribe has diminished almost to extinction, with its people living among the Swahili and other coastal tribes, but with no real communities or territory of their own. The language of the Dahalo is very unusual, and has clicking sounds seldom seen in spoken languages. Only around 400 people are still able to speak it, and it is unlikely that children are still being taught the Dahalo language of this Kenya tribe.
The Embu tribe numbers around a half million people, and their territory is located on the south-east side of Mount Kenya. In the past, they grew crops for their own use, but today they use their fertile mountain lands for growing cash crops instead. Circumcision is an important coming-of-age rituals, that is done for both girls and boys. The Embu don't have a warrior generation like some other tribes do. Though most Embu are Christians now, their traditional beliefs held that god, Ngai, lived on the top of their mountain. The closely related tribe of the Mbeere believed the same thing. - More about the Embu tribe
The Isukha are considered a smaller sub-group of the Luhya tribe, which is the 2nd largest ethnic group in Kenya. The language they speak is called the Wanga dialect, of the main Luhya language. The traditional territory of the Isukha is in western Kenya, near the forests of Kakamega. These people are usually farmers, and they live in large extended families, sometimes with more than one wife involved. Though most of this Kenya tribe are now considered Christians, the god of the Isukha is called Were.
There are about 3 million people in the Kalenjin tribe, whose territory is in the Great Rift Valley. This group wasn't always a single Kenya tribe. Many smaller but related groups decided to come together under one name in order to create a more powerful tribal identity. The traditional Kalenjin religion centers on a single god, who is called Asis. Many people have adopted Christianity, while still holding some old beliefs about sacrifice and ancestor spirits. The Kalenjin people are renowned for their running abilities, and have won a number of gold medals in marathons and long-distance running competitions, including several at the Olympics. The 2nd president of Kenya after independence was Daniel arap Moi, who was a member of the Kalenjin tribe. - More about the Kalenjin tribe
Also called the Akamba, this Kenya tribe live in the east-central areas of Kenya. The practice many trades, including cattle herding, farming and trade with other nearby tribes. Today, there are large populations of the Kamba living in the coastal cites, but many still live in the countryside. Artistic crafts made by the Kamba can be seen all through Kenya galleries and gift shops. They are particularly well-known for their wood carving and pottery. A bride price in cattle is paid before a marriage, and families live together in tight-knit extended groups. - More about the Kamba tribe
They are the biggest of the tribes in Kenya. They total about 5 million (22% of the population. They live in the fertile central highlands. They dominate the country politically and economically. Current president Kibaki’s government consists almost entirely of Kikuyu, and this is one reason of the election riots of December-January 2008. The Kikuyu are closely related to the Embu, Mbeere and Meru peoples who live in the same area around Mount Kenya. Most Kikuyu are now Christians. Some still have their traditional beliefs, according to which their god Ngai (‘the provider’) lives on top of Mount Kenya. - More about the Kikuyu tribe
The Kisii live in a very heavily populated area in the western corner of Kenya, near the shores of Lake Victoria. Due to the fertile nature of their highland territory, the Kisii are often very wealthy from their large cash crop plantations. You'll find most Kisii live in the cities, having embraced a modern lifestyle. Even so, female circumcision is still widely practiced among this tribe. Christianity is the common religion of the tribe now, though some still hold to their old beliefs. Their god is Engoro, and people communicated with him through their ancestors spirits. Even the Christian Kisii still fear witchcraft. - More about the Kisii tribe
The Kenya tribe of the Kore is nearly extinct, with only a few hundred members left. They were defeated by some of the Masai more than a hundred years ago, and the remaining population were taken into slavery by the Somali tribe. After they were freed by the British, they returned to Kenya and now live on the island of Lamu. They live much like Somali people, having adopted many of their customs.
About 2/3 of the Kuria tribe live in Tanzania, and the rest are found in the southern areas of Kenya. They are a mix of farmers, fishermen (those living near Lake Victoria) and pastoral herders. They are closely related to the Luhya, but are not considered a sub-group of that tribe. The Kuria have an unusual marriage custom where 2 women can be married, so that a woman who cannot have her own children can still have a family.
The Luhya is a very large Kenya tribe, with more than 5 million people. It make up 14% of Kenya's population and is the second largest tribe (after the Kikuyu). There are up to 18 sub-groups within the tribe, making the tribe very diverse and wide-spread. They all speak their own dialects of the Luhya language. Their traditional territory is in the west of the country. This Kenyan tribe live in extended families, sometimes polygamous ones where the marriages are arranged. There are rituals for coming-of-age, but the biggest celebrations are for deaths. It was once the typical practice to mourn and celebrate for forty days when someone died. Today, the festivities are reduced to a week. - More about the Luhya tribe
The second largest tribe in Kenya (over 3 million people or 12% of the population). They are now settled farmers and also keep cattle. Their language is called Dholuo. They are famous for their egalitarian culture. In the 1920s their ruoth (leader) Odera Akang'o initiated the quick adoption of the Luo to the British life style.
Contrary to many other tribes, the Luo don’t practice ritual circumcision of males (which causes resistance among Kikuyu against a Luo President, because a 'real man' is of course circumcised!). Raila Odinga, the big challenger of President Kibaki, is a Luo and he succeeded in rallying many tribes against the dominating Kikuyu, which led to the election fraud and riots in December-January 2008. US Presidential candidate Barack Obama is partially of Luo descent too. - More about the Luo tribe
The Maragoli people are part of the larger Luhya tribe, and their 200 sq km territory is in western Kenya, just touching the eastern short of Lake Victoria. The size of this Kenya tribe is around 200,000. Their lush and hilly territory is suited to the farming lifestyle of the Maragoli. Agriculture consists of both subsistence and cash crops. Ritual circumcision is still a common practice for this Kenya tribe, taking place throughout a village every 10 years. Like the rest of the Luhya, the Maragoli hold cattle in high regard as wealth.
Part of the Luhya tribe, the Marama speak the Wanga dialect of the language, just like the Isukha do. Their territory is in western Kenya near the border with Uganda. They are unlike the Luhya tribe though, in that they do not practice male circumcision as an initiation ritual. Families are traditionally polygamous, and many of the Marama are Christians.
The most famous of the tribes in Kenya. They total about 1.3 million, half of who live in Kenya (1.5% of the population) and the other half in northern Tanzania. They are semi-nomadic and have largely kept their traditional life styles. Maasai always wear red, with a simple blue cloth underneath. Both women and men wear wooden bracelets, the women also jewellery. Their language is called Maa. Their society is patriarchic: the male elders keep communication with the Masai god (Enkai or Engai) and make the important decisions. - More about the Masai tribe
The north-eastern side of Mount Kenya is the home of the Meru tribe. Their population is about 1.5 million strong, with 7 sub-groups that all speak their own dialects of the Meru language. Meru folklore has confused scholars for years, as many of their myths are identical to the stories of the Old Testament. Society is patriarchal, with men in charge of leadership and the women in charge of the housework. Even so, the Meru have always been governed by elders elected fairly by vote. They are one of the only Kenya tribes to have a democratic system or rule in place before the country's colonial period. - More about the Meru tribe
Nine different Kenya tribes came together to create the Mijikenda, who migrated to Kenya 300 years ago. Their territory is along a heavily forested ridge in from the coast, and they hold their forests to be sacred. Conservationists are often interested in these lands because they have been untouched for centuries and contain many rare species. They are called "kaya forests", after the word for a Mijikenda villages, a kaya. Trade with the nearby Swahili is common, and the Mijikenda language is much like Swahili because of it. Their society is structured around age-sets, marked by initiation and other rituals of age. - More about the Mijikenda tribe