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What Is A Tribe?

I see the term "tribe" freely used in this Culture Forum. I would like to know exactly what is a "tribe"?

Why are citizens of Luxembourg not called a tribe? If common language and relative micro-existence (population-wise) defines people as a tribe, then we should talk about the English tribe, Welsh tribe, Scottish tribe, Swedish tribe or the Sicilian tribe.

Why has the term "tribe" been chosen for Africans, and accepted by us without question?

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37 answers

There are some tribes that don't believe in a God.

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We do this occasionally, but its in full effect amongst those in the Americas and beyond. . . . . . . . . .

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I would like to hear someone say "the Japanese tribe"

The term "tribe" has been used to haunt Africans to seek their advancement in self-rejection.

In Japan there is a shrine in Futarasan http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3804.html for three Shinto deities.

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yes, it was an open question but by religion I meant the gods and deities specific to each tribe. They play a crucial role in tribal formation and identity at the grassroots level.

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I was actually just making a general contribution to the thread- sorry if my post seemed to be directed at you.

But I agree with what you're saying.

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@tpiah

You are right. The problem with 'behaviour' is that it is fundamentally determined by self-image. Show me a 'tribal' man and i'll show you a man battling with a lot of insecurities and self-esteem issues.

The re-engineering of our minds must start with the redefining of who we are. It is not primitive 'tribes' that populate the banks of the river Niger from the Futa Djallon mountains of Senegambia to the Delta regions of the bight of Bonny, but proud nations, each with histories no less significant than the history of the British monarchy. When we begin to see ourselves in that light, then we will begin to respect ourselves and 'behave' like the proud people we should be and not resign ourselves to being incompetent 'black African tribes' whose only legacy is slavery, colonialism and incessant squabbles over whose 'tribe' is better than the others. The latter, by the way, is how the rest of the world sees us.

Sorry if i sounded pedantic or patronising. I didn't mean to be.

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tribes arent always about numbers.

The label isnt defined by how many members the group has.

Thats just a common misconception. Most times, tribes are characterized by their mentality and behavior.

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The arguement is not whether 'tribes' exist or not.

They sure do, going by the dictionary definition of the word. The arguement is whether it is still relevant when describing a lot of the 'ethnic' groups that make up most countries in the developing world. In the case of Nigeria, we are talking about the Bini, Esan, Hausa, Ijaw etc.

These peopes are not tribes. They, by virtue of their numbers, can lay claims to being 'nations' or whatever it is the English, or Welsh or Catalans would like to call themselves.

Why i dislike the word 'tribe' is the images it conjures up in the mind.

People who study the evolution of language know that language is not just about the communication of words. If it were that, then languages would not have evolved beyond the 'grunt' of primitive man. Language evolves because what is communicated includes the ideas and associations of the word. An example is the word 'wicked', which 10-20 years ago meant something entirely different to what it means to the sixteen year old teenager on the streets of Hackney today.

The images the word 'tribe' conjures in the mind, is also implied when it is used to describe African peoples. That is my point.

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besides, at the very basic grassroots, tribal identity also springs from the worship of the same gods and deities.

Aside from blood ties. Where does cultural identity which leads to tribe come from? What defines a culture at the most elementary level- isnt it religion?

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Ghana is mostly made of Akan sub groups (Fante, Ewe, Ashanti etc.), these people have a direct common descent, so their really the same people. Also the cultures around them are really similar to each other, such as the Fon, etc.

This is the reason why I argue that Igbo people are not a 'tribe'.

Igbo people are not all indigenous, we were made by waves of migrations, we do not have a common descent, we definitely don't speak a common dialect.

According to Webster's "New World Dictionary" the word tribe means "a group of persons, families, or clans believed to be descended from a common ancestor and forming a close community under a leader, or chief."

We don't all descend from a common ancestor, we don't and never have had a close community (as all Igbo people), and we are definitely not under any leader of chief, not even the basic level communities all have chiefs or leader. I've not even pointed out the obvious that we are over 30 million.

Just because some archaic European social constructs have been named tribes, does not automatically mean that "if they could call their own people a tribe then we Africans, who's ancestors were made of damp wood, can not possibly say our ethnic groups can be more evolved than these thousand year old tribes."

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i know that you are in spain so will know better.However i have read stories about general franco and about resistance from both the basque and catalan region.I also read about 2 years ago about a referendum in the catalan region about more indepedence fom madrid.Of course you know about ETA.Even xabi alonso(basque) refused to fly the spanish flag after the euro 2008 win.Catalans have often written to fifa to have their own independent national team.

However since you are in the catalan region you might enlighten me better on the situation in spain.

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Where did you get that poo from? Are you there?

No they are not Nations but Autonomous communities. Though there are some nationalistic elements all over the place. Castilian language is the widely accepted Official National language. Tthe rest have dialects and not languages except Basque people

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I'm one of the people breakdancing when I'm called black.

Why?

Because God doesnt make junk!

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@beneli

I'm struggling to understand the understatement, What is wrong with the word 'tribe'. Taking into consideration that people will break dance on most things anyway, I take things simply for what they are; if not, I will have to throw away the English dict along with the English language, come up with my own language, so when someone say an english word i don't like, I tell him no, this is the real word

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Interesting. The issue, however, is not so much about who you are 'no matter what', but more about what others call you and the reasons why they call you that. Hence the argument. Some Africans feel like break dancing when they are called 'black'. I don't. Because it does not describe me in any way. But that's another topic. Just like i don't describe the clan i come from in terms of 'tribe'.

So @ Abz, what's wrong in saying that you are an Egba man from the Yoruba peoples of Nigeria, instead of denigrating the proud Egba people with the inelegant cloak of 'tribe'? I won't. But then that's my choice.

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The Irish and Basque "tribes" have been fighting to preserve their separate commmon language/dialect and customs from their

amalgamated Nation-State. The Basque language of Spain is completely different from the rest of Spain and Europe.

Even the Bretons of France are doing the same, non-violently. Read about the Irish Republican Army and the Basque Separatists.

Amalgamated-Nation-State creation in the history of Europe and Americas involved centuries of bloodshed. The antagonisms still exist today.

The Welsh still question the validity of an English Prince of Wales and the Scottish have to bear with an English Duke of Edinburgh!

When the Serbian and Bosnian "tribes" started their "tribal" war, it came as a shock to those of us who imagined Yugoslavia to be a "non-tribe"

nation.

Amalgamated-Nation-State creation anywhere on earth usually involves the suppression of the weak by the mighty. Some weak may not give in easily.

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quote from ChinenyeN:

I define "tribe" the way ethnologists define "tribe"; a group of indigenous people, bound by blood ties, who are socially, politically, and religiously organized according to the tenets of their own culture, who live together, occupying a definite territory, and who speak a common language or dialect.

Oxford English Dict:

Tribe: a group of people within a traditional society sharing customs and beliefs,

My question: how do you explain who you are,

My answer: I am Abz a Yoruba Nigerian from the Ogun state ethnicity, the Egba tribe

You're who you're no matter what; and there is no reason to attach a negative reference to the word 'tribe', please take that vision of huts residences out of your mind. It is what it is.

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Put it this way. Whenever a documentary about 'tribes', is going to be aired on TV, you don't need to be clairvoyant to know that it's not going to be about 'civilised' people. 

Whether people want to accept it or not, there is a lot of social controlling going on out there. The visual and verbal images created whether overtly or subliminally by those who wish to control others, go a long way to shaping the way people think about themselves and how they behave. That is a fact and it's not just another conspiracy theory.

So when you look at it from that perspective, i doubt you'd be extraordinarily enthusiastic about flying the tribe-banners very high!

It's true that everybody comes from some group or the other, but must the group be described with the rather uncomplimentary 'tribe', when talking about 'black' Africans and other such developmentally challenged peoples?

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should be related to, based on who that person is, but I don't believe a person's tribal background can completely be ignored (that is of course, if the person has not yet abandoned their tribal customs, believes, etc. etc.).

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Its ridiculous because Tribes separate people instead of bring them together.NO one should be judge on what tribe they belong too. Tribe is nothing but a word.

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I simply don't like the word and all that it connotes. But you are right about the breakdancing thing though!

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it's the collective noun for 'natives' (whatever that means) and also used to describe a group of monkeys!

http://www.ucgc.org/terms-for-collections.htm

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una don come again with una grandiose delusion.

You are a tribe as long as you have a tribal (ie closeminded) mentality.

Before jumping on the racism bandwagon look at the countries which dont subscribe to this tribal worldview and see what ways they are different from those who have that.

Native Americans are called tribes and/or nations.  However, most of them live on reservations and limit their interaction with the general US society.

Wasnt that what you wanted to hear? Oyibos are accommodating.

Tribe shows you are static, not changing. And holding on to ancient mores, boundaries and grudges. It shows the level of development, in a way.

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I think they actually hate themselves in spain.

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Tribes are plain ridiculous.There is no point in them.

I don't take it serious!!!

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An aside: what is a clan and what is the differnce between a clan and a tribe?

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If you have taken an anthropology class you will understand that societies are classified as:

1) Family

2) Community

3) Tribe

4) Chieftains (ethnicity)

5) State or nation

Family is group of people related, mainly by blood, marriage, or adoption. The leader is usually the father or the mother depending on the custom. In this stage there is no written law or Constitution. The members conduct their behavior based on tradition and rules laid down by the head. Kinship also falls within this category. At this stage there is no president, King, or etc. The person with most authority is the head of the family. One becomes the head due to his age, or gender. This is a primitive stage of the society comparable to the Hunter-gatherer societies.

From the family stage, the society evolves to the community.

Community is made up of families. Groups of family who interact or socially, i.e. related, share customs, share beliefs and live near is a community. Villages, cities and towns, belong to this category. At this stage there are no legal laws. Communities conduct themselves by customs, tradition, and values which usually are backed by religious beliefs, mutual agreement, or superstitious beliefs. Here also there is no President, Government and etc.

The community evolves into a tribe.

The tribe is a group of communities or extended families held together by a shared system of traditions. At this stage there is no complicated and advanced legal system or government. Some tribes may have leaders who are called tribal leaders chiefs but usually tribes are lead by council of elders. According to wikwpedia:

After taking all these definitions into consideration you come to the understanding that Igbo, House and Yoruba, are not tribes. These are arguably nations, since they all posses the characteristics of what makes a nation. The colonial masters called them tribes in-order to hide the better truth. The Truth is that they (the colonial masters) invaded west African nations and controlled them. Rather than saying this they say that they colonized and united tribes into a nation. This is an insult on us because tribes are usually more or less a society at a primitive stage. This is one of the reasons why Nigeria is failing; we have to realize that Nigeria is a group of nations trying to amalgamate into one nation.

I once asked my anthropology professor(a white man) why the world calls us(the igbos) a tribe while nobody calls societies like the Irish of United Kingdom tribes.  The professor smiled at me and said in a quite tone, "racism."

Consider that the igbos are more numerous than the Irish. Mare population alone can move a society from the tribal stage to a nation. Once tribe is mentioned, primitivism comes to mind, the world would always like to associate black Africans with primitivism. This is what the colonial masters taught us, and today we still teach this in our schools. Some People who study abroad and people who know what a tribe really means will never consider the Igbos, housa, yourobas and etc, tribes. Listen to Professor Chinua Achebe on this issue.

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Um, those aren't tribes, their empires. An regarding the Celtic tribes and so on, why aren't the Basque people considered a tribe, even Europeans have seen the negative and derogatory nature of calling everything in Africa 'tribes', and the Cherokee, Apache and so on are called Native American nations. Look up the definition of 'tribe'.

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True.

Most Nigerians deny this though, because they're trying to "fit in" with some cliques.

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God created mankind! from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made them into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other.

so we find each tribe desend from one father, there are memebers joined to tribe via allince so the hold the name of the the tribe although they have blood relations with the poeple of the trible they belong to.

we can not apply the term tribe to poeple who live in a town ie we can' say lagos tribe , london tribe

regards

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Not at all. . . . in Spain we have the Castilians, Catalonians, Andalucians, Basque etc. . . . although they prefer to call themselves nations. . .

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I define "tribe" the way ethnologists define "tribe"; a group of indigenous people, bound by blood ties, who are socially, politically, and religiously organized according to the tenets of their own culture, who live together, occupying a definite territory, and who speak a common language or dialect.

"Tribe" is also not synonymous with "ethnicity".

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That reminds me of what I read in Asterix Comic books.

Goths became Spaniards, Franks with Celts became French , Anglo-Saxons with Celts became English.

Presently, tribes and ethnic groups seem to be confined to Africa, native America and Middle East / India

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Pakistanis have tribes, Afghanistan has tribes, native Americans have tribes.

some Africans call it tribe while others prefer ethnic group.

same thing and same mentality.

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The term tribe is not only used for Africans, but Europeans before de-tribalisation. . . . Europeans had Goths, Franks, Saxons, Celts etc. . . . same with Indians. . . . Incas, Mayans, Aztecs etc. . . . nothing new. . . . there is no conspiracy against Africans. . . . . keep it moving. . . .

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if you act like a tribe then you're a tribe.

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