Origins of teso

Origins of teso

  • They are a branch of the plain Nilotics called the Jie.
  • They migrated from southern Ethiopia.
  • They fall under a smaller group of the Ateker.
  • They are related to the Turkana, Kumam, Maasai and Karamojong.
  •  They first settled in Karamoja for some time and lived there for some time.
  • In the early 18th century, the Iteso left Karamoja.
  • This was due to cattle rustling, over stocking, over population and lack of water and pasture.
  • They then moved southwards and settled along the shores of Lake Bisina.
  • It is from here that they acquired the name Itesots.
  • Due to more pressure, others moved to Eastern Uganda and Western Kenya.
  • They are settled in districts such as Kumi, Soroti, Tororo, Mbale, Kaberamaido and Amuria.

Structure of the Teso Society

Political Organization

  • The Itesots had no centralized system of government.
  •  They were organized in clans called Ateker.
  • The clans were the centres of power and it was made up of several extended families.
  • Each clan had a common taboo.
  • The Emuron was the most important chief among the Itesots.
  • He had religious and Political powers, a rain maker and also helped barren women to conceive.
  • Other important chiefs included Aruwon (military leader) who was chosen because of his bravery and Ekaraban (Village ambassador) who settled disputes.
  • Clan meetings (Etems) were important among the Iteso because they handled cases like divorce, adultery and murder.
  • Age- Set system (Aturi) existed among the Itesots on which wars and raids were conducted.
  • Boys of the same age worked and fought together.

Social Organization

  • Social ceremonies were very important e.g. Marriage and birth of twins were marked with jubilations, dances, food and beer.
  • Religiously, the Itesots believed in a supreme being who had lesser gods for example Apa – the god of peace and Edeke – the god of calamity.
  • The Emuron was the religious leader and always offered sacrifices to Edeke on behalf of his people.
  • The Iteso were bound together by strong ties of Kinship and members of the same ancestry regarded themselves as brothers.
  • Itesots had an age-set system (Aturi) which was always formed at a time of Initiations and it marked a change from child hood to adult hood.
  • A man was the head of the family and therefore his sons were supposed to inherit the father’s property upon his death.
  • Status among the Iteso depended on how many cows one had i.e. those who less herds were always despised and minimized.

Economic Organization

  • Initially, the Iteso were pastoralists and they kept cows, sheep and goats.
  • They also reared birds e.g. chicken and turkey.
  • The Iteso later adopted farming and they grew crops such as millet, sorghum and Groundnuts.
  • Hunting was another activity among the Iteso and this promoted unity and socialization.
  • The Iteso also carried out some trade and they exchanged hides and skins and Ivory for backcloth, beads and iron implements from Bunyoro and Busoga.