Humankind and Nature


Meeting the Endorois People in Lake Bogoria to Celebrate Knowledge and Identity


Azimuth's team just returned from a 5-day trip to Kenya to meet the Endorois community

At the invitation of Carson Kiburo and Dominica Zhu - respective leaders of Jamii Asilia Center (JAC) and Global Wisdom Collective (GWC) -, our friends who last year honored us with an invitation to co-host a side event at the UN's Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues, we went to an event in Lake Bogoria, home of the Endorois People.

Image Credit: Global Wisdom Collective & Jamii Asilia Centre

JAC and GWC are the two organizations that co-developed "Revitalize the Roots: Bikap Torois," a project that Azimuth funded. Global Wisdom Collective launched the Revitalize the Roots Initiative for Indigenous knowledge preservation. Jamii Asilia Centre partnered with them to co-found the Bikap Torois (People of Torois) program, which started in 2023 "to develop and implement a cultural and language revitalization model, enhance intergenerational knowledge-sharing systems, and digitally preserve Endorois peoples' cultural heritage and ancestral lands knowledge for the Indigenous Endorois People."

The project has been a success. The model they created and developed to collect and preserve this ancestral knowledge was meticulously thought out with cultural sensitivity and empowerment as guiding principles. Through the program, the young members of the Endorois community were empowered with the skills to record, interview, and archive their traditional knowledge. They engaged in profound dialogues with their elders, contributing to the preservation of their community's rich cultural heritage.

The first cohort of elder-youth pairs completed the first stage of the work, and JAC and GWC put together a very special ceremony to applaud their graduation, honor the elders, and get the (almost) entire community together to celebrate Endorois culture.

It's hard to put into words the depth of meaning we found in this experience. It brought a new dimension to our understanding of what it means to support this People, to recognize there, face to face, needs and aspirations. It reinforced our commitment to their cause, their well-being, and the preservation of their way of life.

The ceremony itself was a powerful demonstration of the profound impact that a cultural preservation project can have on a community. We often tend to think of cultural preservation as maybe more unimportant to communities where hospitals, schools or even safe water are lacking. But when we consider how protecting and revitalizing this culture and knowledge means also preserving community cohesion and unity (in a time when they are again facing eviction from their land), preserving medicinal knowledge (in a place where there are no hospitals), preserving ecological knowledge (in a place and time where the environmental consequences of colonialism and invasive species are still producing severely negative impacts), then things become a little less hierarchically simple.

The event was beautiful. It took place on the banks of Lake Bogoria (which holds profound spiritual meaning for the Endorois), and they managed to get buses to bring elders, youth, and other community members from all over the region. Most of these octogenarians and even centenarians gladly traveled by bus through 4 and 5 hours of dust, bumps, and immense heat in their traditional regalia to meet the rest of their community. Carson told us there hadn't been a gathering like this for a long time.

The ceremony started with the solemn blessings and prayers of the elders and then a shared feast with traditional foods. Then, there were vibrant performances by Endorois singers-dancers. A women's group did a special song-dance to thank the two organizations for developing the project and organizing the event. During the ceremony, the youth received their graduation certificates, and the elders were gifted with custom-made Shuka blankets. Afterwards, community members, organization leaders, and the County Commissioner for Gender Equality delivered inspiring speeches.

The community committee that JAC and GWC formed to help organize the event also invited other neighboring communities, like the Ilchamus, who did a traditional dance at the ceremony, and the Ogiek, currently facing violent eviction from Mau forest, which has been their home since before Kenya was even called by that name.

There was so much more than what fits in this simplistic description. Every moment was filled with a sense of pride and belonging.

Throughout the event, we were struck by its transformative effect on the elders and youth. Carson told us, and it was visible, how the elders felt seen, validated, and worthy of respect while the youth gained a sense of identity, belonging, and purpose when they are just starting their journey to step into leadership roles within their community.

The ceremony was conducted mainly in the Endorois language. Despite tongue barriers, we felt deeply connected to the spirit of the occasion (of course, also thanks to the thoughtful translation of one of the graduates).

Later in the day, we had the chance to visit Lake Bogoria. We saw the devastation the floods caused and had a small glimpse of what that meant for a community already profoundly marginalized. The one major road leading to Lake Bogoria Park was submerged, as were numerous houses, the cultural center, and other critical infrastructure. They also told us how climate models and predictions indicate that the Lake will keep rising and moving.

Another highlight was on our first day in Kenya when we met with Christine Kandie, leader of EIWEN (which we supported last cycle), who was in Nairobi for a meeting with partners from an Indigenous organizing network. The conversation left us deeply moved by her tireless advocacy and community work.

Christine shared EIWEN's latest initiatives, including their partnership with IFES to empower Indigenous women to take on leadership roles. She told us about the day before March that brought together the Endorois and the Ogiek, as both communities demand that the government implements the years-old African Commission's decisions regarding the illegal eviction from their ancestral lands, and highlighting the ongoing struggle for recognition and compensation faced by Indigenous communities.


Kenya’s Indigenous communities demand action on land rights | New Internationalist

The Endorois and Ogiek communities are still waiting to return to their rightful ancestral lands. Anthony Langat reports.

Christine discussed EIWEN's involvement in securing territory for the Endorois community, celebrating the release of the Endorois Biocultural Protocol, and efforts to make agriculture more productive around Lake Bogoria. The organization's focus on addressing climate change impacts, providing training for People with Disabilities, and leveraging a County Health Volunteer Program highlighted their holistic approach to community empowerment. Christine's dedication to advancing Indigenous rights and her aspirations to engage in global Indigenous movements demonstrate the importance of supporting leaders like her. We left the meeting with a deep appreciation for Christine's visionary leadership.

We return home with a renewed sense of purpose and gratitude for the opportunity to be part of such a meaningful project. We look forward to continuing our support for efforts like the Revitalize the Roots Initiative and advocating for the rights of Indigenous peoples around the world.

Right now, all that comes to mind is Kongoi, which means Thank You in the Endorois language.

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