The Dassanech has been divided into different tribes namely Arbore, Ari, Bodi, Daasanech, Bena, Bumi, Hamer, Kara, Dorze, Muguji, Konso, Tsemay, Turkana, Mursi, and Surma
The Dassanech people (also spelt as Daasanach, Dasenach, and Dassanetch, and called Geleb,Merile, and Gabarich), who speak an East Cushitic language, live in Ethiopia and Kenya on the northern shore of Lake Turkana and further north along the Omo River. The name Dassanech means ‘People of the Delta’. Traditionally, the dassanech are divided into 8 territorial sections: the Shirr (largest), Inkoria, Narich, Elele, Ri’ele, Oro, Randal & Kuoro and of which have their own identity and responsibility and customs and are divided into territories. Among this clans the Inkabelo are the wealthiest. Furthermore, they are divided into 8 exogamous & non-territorial clans: Turinyerim, Fargar, Galbur, Turat, Ili, Mur, Edze & Tiyeme. The Ethiopian Dassanech (the majority) live in Dassanech Woreda (District), South Omo Zone, Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR). The population of the Ethiopian Dassanech is estimated at 48,067.
The Shiir , Narich Oro koro depend on livestock and crop production
Inkoria, Randal rely on livestock production
Elele and Riele depend on cultivation.
According to unpublished data from the South Omo Zone Administration, the land area of the Dassanech is 2,575 sq km. Until 2006, the area was part of the administrative unit of Kuraz woreda. Following the 2006 administrative restructuring,Dassanech land was elevated to a district level with its capital at Omorate, some 852 km south of Addis Ababa. The Dassanech district is divided into 40 units called kebele. A kebele is the lowest administrative unit responsible for government functions such as local administration, the collection of tax, provision of extension service and food aid, elections, etc. Except for Omorate (the capital of the district), which hosts migrants and local people, all other kebeles are inhabited by agro-pastoral Dassanech communities.
The Dassanech tribe is not strictly defined by ethnicity. Anyone, man or woman, will be admitted, as long as they agree to be circumcised. Each of the 8 clans has its own identity & customs, its own responsibilities towards the rest of the tribe, & is linked to a particular territory.
The largest clan, the Galbur is known as the water & crocodile clan. They believe its members have the power over both water & crocodiles & are responsible for dealing with diseases of the glands. The Turat are responsible for dealing with burns from fire. They also have powers to keep away snakes, to cure many diseases & the ability to keep away enemies from their animals. The Turnyerim have powers over drought & they pray for rains during dry periods. They can also cure snakebites by spitting on the wound. Other clans have healing powers over eye infections, scorpion bites, muscular problems and so on. Members of the same clan are forbidden from marrying or even dancing with each other.
Dassanech men and women are considered masters of body decoration, wearing earrings, necklaces, bracelets and anklets of beads.
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