IK PEOPLE “THE MOUNTAIN PEOPLE OF UGANDA”

Ik people are one of the endangered tribal groups in Uganda found in karamoja region in north eastern Uganda, Ik people are times referred to as Tueso and mountain people of Uganda by foreigners. Ik people are hunter-gatherers residing on mount Morungole, mount Morungole is situated on the border of Uganda and Kenya in kidepo valley park region.

The name Ik loosely translates to meaning a head of migration or the first to migrate here. As their name states the Ik people were the first too migrate and settle in Karamojong region, Ik people are a small community of people with approximately less than 10,000 individuals. They migrated to karamoja region from Ethiopia and first settled in Kenya, they later migrated and settling in karamoja.

Ik people

Community setting of Ik people

Ik people live in gathered villages referred to as odok consisting of friendly individual households referred to as asak, the households “asak” have a large yard which are set on relatively flat plains of mount Morungole. As a way of preventing their villages from intruder and attacks from wild animals, the villages are entirely fenced, the house holds’ yards contain a food granary, a rank to hold utensils, kraal for animals like goats, sheep, poultry houses for chicken and a pit latrine.

Traditionally Ik people are polygamists and marry many wives, the number of wives one marries is more dependent on his ability to pay dowry to these women as wives. In Ik community dowry is given and measured in form of goats, sheep, chicken, beehives and monetary cash. Though they considered this kind of dowry expensive and hard to get for Ik people, to other communities like Baganda, batooro it is considered to be very cheap. After paying the dowry it is a husband’s duty to build an asak “house” for each of his wives and he is also obliged to make rotational visits to his wives in their asak.

In Ik traditions wife inheritance is very common and embraced, a man is free to inherit his brother’s wife after divorce or his brother’s death. In the same community sex promiscuity is punishable, incest and adultery are severely punished by death, these tendencies are taken as offences reason being every youth aged boy has his own asak which makes him eligible to get a partner and have a love life in secrecy.

Child bearing in Ik community is good news and very much celebrated as it is a sign of blessing to mankind, raising a child in Ik community is not individually as it is in most communities, it is a social responsibility. Ik parents share their asak with infants up to the average age of 4 years and they are taken up by their grandparents and live with them up to their youth, grandparents are a living source of information and data which they pass on to their grandchildren in the process of living with them. At the age of 13 grandchildren are in their youth, the boys leave their grandparent’s asak and build their own while the girls are ready for marriage

When compared to other tribes like Toposa, Turkana and Jie which live in the semi- arid areas of east África and their communities’ settings, Ik people possessed no big amount of wealth to grant them ground to speak or be powerful in the region. They lived their lives depending on a few heads of cattle, goat, sheep and chicken which they kept in small quantity, since they possessed excellent skills in hunting they hunted wild animals. Ike people are also gathers and cultivators, they gather edible fruits, flowers, leaves, tubers and grow some food crops in karamoja plains.

Threats to the Ik people

Ike people live in communities of few people which has worked for their disadvantage, Ike people are outnumbered of their neighboring communities like the Karamojong who constantly raid Ike people and other neighboring communities. Karamojong warriors believe that it is their birth rite to any cattle anywhere given to them by their god Akuj that is why they take pride in raiding weak communities. Because of constant raids from the Karamojong, Ike people were forced to abandoned cattle rearing and focused on hunting of wildlife, growing food crops and gathering edible fruits.

Another threat which hit the Ik people hard was in 1960s during the gazetting of kidepo national park, the wildlife protection and conservation movement leading to gazetting their ancestral land as a national park greatly affected the Ike as they were forced to vacant their land without being compensated. With a lot of agony and frustration they relocated to Morungole ranges.

Visiting/ hiking the Ike people

Visiting Ik group of people can be included on your safari to kidepo national park as a cultural encounter safari activity, visiting this community while on a tour will surely give you an exciting cultural experience. The safari involves hiking the residents of the Ik people in the slopes of mount Morungole which stand at the altitude of 2,750 meters from karamoja plains, you encounter montane vegetation covering the slopes of the montane accompanied with cool breeze and fresh air. From mount Morungole you get magnificent scenic views of the rift valley and the surrounding wildlife filled plains, the most exciting part of the safari is when you meet and interact with Ik people. Upon your arrival you are welcomed by with traditional dances performed by Ik people and in the process of interacting you get to learn more about their life style, experiences, culture and history.  

Hiking to the Ik village is one of the authentic African culture but it is not easy as you have to climb through the steep mountains by foot, while you’re headed by Ik language speaking guide who knows all the routes. The route has been made easy by atrial marked by the US forest service, there is also a short cut for a vehicle ride. This safari activity does not only offer fascinating cultural experience it is also a form of physical exercise as it tests your physical ability as you hike through a trail of 8 kilometers up to the village meaning the whole journey is a trek of tough climbing and sloping down.

Ik people became famous and worldly known in 1972 from a popular book “The Mountain People” written by a British-American anthropologist Colin Turnbull published, in this book he portrays the Ik People as a people who did not love. Colin Turnbull’s perception about the Ik people will be proved wrong to you when you visit these people as they are calm, very welcoming and living.

Though Ik people are the most primitive people living in the most remote areas in Uganda, they have had some memorable moments which are to be laid down in the history of their community. They had their first Member of Parliament representative in the 10th parliament of Uganda in 2016 and have their first native in university at Kampala international university.

 Include visiting Ik people in your safari and experience the authentic African culture on mountain Morungole in northern Uganda.

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