The cradle of the Endorois is Lake Bogoria, about fifty kilometres from the equator, and it used to be exclusively home to their rich spirituality, not until the government evicted them to pave way for the creation of a national reserve in the early 1970s.
We are traditionally pastoralist people but have recently learnt to grow crops to diversify our livelihood which encourages rich biodiversity around Lake Bogoria. According to our customs, different animals, plants and ecosystems are attached to totemic significance. This is for ease of identification in our thirteen clans when conducting marriage and other ceremonies. These clans have lineages which are named after ancestors. Every clan has a name bestowed on their women, for example, Tarkok (My clans’ women’s name), a totemic animal and totemic symbol to mark their livestock.
Culture and Biodiversity
Lake Bogoria is home to over 300 species of water birds with biodiversity values among them, the lesser flamingos numbering over 1.5 million according to UNESCO Ramsar World Heritage annals. According to our age-old indigenous culture, the large number of greater kudus, impala, gazelles, monkeys and insects, protection of this wildlife is centred on totems that we identify each clan in the Endorois. This is a rich biodiversity story in there!
1. Wildlife and totemic relevance
Some animals are very important to ceremonies -like the crane which is linked to circumcision and also it is regarded as a symbol of wisdom. It is prohibited to kill a crane. Greater kudu horn is used in a variety of ceremonies for example when it is blown to call for a community meeting.
Located in the Savanna plains, at the bottom of Laikipia Escarpment, the area around the Lake where my people currently live experiences extreme hot climate sometimes. Like the frequent droughts. Whenever our rivers run dry and grass diminishes for our livestock, prayers are held at the shores of the lake near Loburu.
Our grazing fields and swamps are known as sawaiti – are closed in a ritual during the rainy season and are supposed to be respected as such. Libations are poured, milk, honey, traditionally brewed drinks and herbs. If someone’s livestock accidentally enters the closed fields, they have to report themselves to the elders for a cleansing ritual; providing a bull and traditional brew to avoid a curse on their livestock. When the rainy season begins, prayers are also offered to God as a thanksgiving. We believe that water is life and we take it seriously. These ceremonies are done by specifically selected and trusted clans.
Some of the plants known as korosek used in these ceremonies are burned and the smoke that goes up is regarded as a message to God. The remaining parts of the plants are given to the attendees as a blessing to their homesteads.
In my community, there are traditional and very spiritual prayers and rituals that are held at Loburu, the geysers of hot springs in Lake Bogoria. Rituals which are performed by blameless men (both young and old). The hot spring geysers spurt steam that offers medicinal value as well as rich geothermal pools.
The Endorois people in their history and cultural heritage that has been passed over by our ancestors cannot be exhausted in this short story. The story doesn’t end here!