Okiek - Settlements



Okiek settlements have changed over time in conjunction with shifts in economy and mode of subsistence. When hunting and honey gathering were major sources of subsistence for Kaplelach and Kipchornwonek, they lived in small settlements composed of extended-family groups. For example, one residence group might include the households of a man and his adult sons or of a group of brothers. At times, they might also include households linked by affinal relations. People moved several times a year, with households sometimes regrouping, going to live in forests at different elevations according to honey seasons.

As agriculture became more important, Okiek began to settle more permanently in middle-altitude forest. These settlements provided a home base where gardens were located and from which men traveled to more distant forests to hunt and check their hives. As lineages owned land (see "Land Tenure"), the lineage basis of smaller settlement groups remained the same. Some larger communities with multiple crosscutting ties based on patrilineal, matrilateral, and affinal relations formed as well, especially in Kipchornwonek areas.

Settlement patterns began to change again in the late 1970s and 1980s in response to government changes in land tenure. As government-demarcated group ranches in Narok District began to be subdivided into individual holdings (see "Land Tenure"), Okiek families moved onto the tracts that would be theirs. They were also able to sell portions of their land for the first time. The result of this has been a large influx of people from farther west, where population densities are higher and land is scarcer and more costly. Most immigrants into Kipchornwonek and Kaplelach areas are Kipsigis, although some people from Kisii and Kikuyu ethnic groups have also bought land. Kikuyu are the main settlers in areas on the Mau Escarpment between Narok and Nakuru.


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