Maasailand: People, Culture, and the Savannah

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Maasailand is a cultural area which stretches from southern Kenya to northern Tanzania and has been inhabited by the Maasai people for thousands of years. The Maasai are a people characterized by their slender frames, dark skin, and tall stature, and posses a lifestyle based upon unique cultural traits. The name Maasai comes from the indigenous language of the people, Ma, and literally means people who speak Ma. Because the people are tied together by their language, they share unique similarities with other Ma speaking tribes of East Africa, such as the Samburu. However, the Maasai are the largest of the Ma speaking tribes, and are said to have nearly a million members living between the two countries they inhabit. The Maasai are also one of the best known tribes in Africa, and have been studied in numerous western studies. Although the people thrive on a rich history, the Maasai face many difficulties in today’s modern world. Since Kenya (which is the country the Maasai primarily inhabit) gained independence in 1963, the Maasai people have struggled to acclimate to growing western influences. Today, the Maasai people face many challenges as they struggle for rights to land, as well as the increased need for infrastructure amongst this impoverished nation. Some groups of Maasai have worked with outside aid to better the lives of their people, but outlying groups remain behind the curve as the world around them constantly changes and modernizes. The need for the people of Maasailand to work with their environment, political government, as well as each other grows paramount as the Maasai fall further behind the rest of the world. The problems that the Maasai face are many, but hope is in sight as western influence and personal motivation gradually assist this tribe in need forward. The Maasai are a people defined by their environment and culture. Their

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