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East African Tribes


East African Tribes

Indigenous People of Eastern Africa

East African tribes range from small, isolated pastoralists (such as the Mursi tribe in the photo above) to large groups such as the Amhara tribe. All four African language families (Afro-Asiatic, Nilo-Saharan, Niger-Congo, and Khosian) are spoken among the various East African tribes. In the northern part of East Africa, the Nubi (or Nubians) speak Nobiin, a language in the Nilo-Saharan linguistic family. The Luo and Maasai (Masai) tribes also speak Nilotic languages. Many East African tribes speak Afro-Asiatic languages of Semitic or Cushitic origins, examples being Afar, Amharic, Oromo, and Somali. One of the dominant languages among the southern East African tribes is Swahili, a Niger-Congo language. Other Bantu languages spoken among the East African tribes include Chichewa, Gikuyu (or Kikuyu), and Luhya. The Khosian language family is represented by the Sandawe and Hadza tribes of Tanzania. East African tribes generally live in arid or desert areas, compared to West African tribes which often live in tropical rainforest environments. The lower value of desert lands have contributed to the survival of many East African tribe cultures as compared to ethnic groups living on more valuable and fertile lands.


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Photograph "Mursi.women" by Terri O'Sullivan and is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License - BY-NC-SA
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