Samia people



Samia speaking people live in Western Kenya and Eastern Uganda. They are composed of several clans and their ancient economic activities include fishing in Lake Victoria and other rivers such as River Sio, crop farming (obulimi), and animal farming (obutuki). The Samia speaking people, as widely known by other tribes, predominantly live in Busia districts (Both in Kenya and Uganda) and speak a dialect similar to the Luhya tribe in Kenya. However, on the Ugandan side there is a slight variation in the dialect spoken by the Samia of Southern Busia on the fringe of Lake Victoria and those of North Busia district closer to Tororo District. The former speak Olusamia while the latter speak Olugwe. The two dialects are difficult to differentiate by non Samia speaking people but easily discernible by the natives.


Culture and Music

Samia speaking people love music which is played in their various ceremonies, which include marriage (Obugole/ Obweya), funeral (amasika), veneration of ancestors (ebikuda mukutu and Enga'nyo), and wrestling (amalengo). Their musical instruments include: (a) A large violin-like wooden instrument called Adungu (b) A drum called Engalabe, covered at one end with the skin of a monitor lizard (c) A flute called Erere and (d) An instrument called Sikudi. The major traditional dances are owaro, ekworo, eboodi and esikudi. The eboodi and ekworo are love dances. Owaro and esikudi are performed when people are happy.



Samia speaking people have a number of clans, each person belongs to the father's clan. You can not marry from your clan or your mothers clan.



Years before modern government, Samia people used to live in villages called Engongo which are separated by valleys and within Engongo they had Engoba. Engoba is many; one is called Olukoba. One needed a ladder-like contraption to access or leave Olukoba but the Olukoba also had specific gates. Up to today, the daily lives of Samia people are dictated by customs and traditions. For instance, a woman who loses her husband should be remarried to a brother of the deceased so that should this widow wish to bear more children, they should resemble their kin. Their diet consists of cassava bread made of sorghum or millet, often mixed with fermented cassava also called obusuma. Sometimes white stiff porridge made out of maize flour added. The food is eaten with vegetables, meat, or chicken. The Samia also largely consume gruel, rice and bananas. Samia speaking people are known to be very clever people due to frequent consumption of fresh fish. In fact non Samia speaking people often refer to them as "obusuma ne'ngeni bicha speed" meaning brown stiff porridge and fish roll down the throat very fast.


Basamia-bagwe traditional perception on birth

In normal births, the mother confined herself for three days if the child was a boy and four days if the child was a girl.
The birth of a boy was accorded fewer days to symbolize the fact that a man should get up early and go to fight or do his own work.
As for a woman, she could take her time. However, the Balundu clan reversed this order.
For the birth of girls, the other confined herself for three days while for a boy; she confined her self for four days. Normally, in all cases, after the child has been born, the mother and father shave their hair.


Traditional Marriage among the basamia-bagwe

The boy would seduce the girl first. The girl could not show a concrete response although her response might appear positive
Thereafter, the boy would come with a spear and plant it in front of the hut of the girl’s mother. If the girl had accepted the marriage, she would remove the spear and take it to the mothers hut.
Thereafter, bride wealth negotiations would be entered into. There was no fixed bride wealth for each girl. One was charged depending on one’s status, wealth and titles.
This meant in effect, that the rich were charged more than the poor. The general price ranged form between four and eight cows plus a large assortment of goats each of which had a specific role.
Upon payment of bride wealth, further arrangements were made to take the girl to her husband. If it was discovered that the girl was a virgin, a goat or its equivalent was sent to the girl’s mother as a sign of appreciation for the good role she had played in seeping the girl intact and safe.

It was also customary for a boy to take a fat male goat to be slaughtered at the girl’s father’s home. On this occasion; the girl’s father would stand on it and be smeared with simsim oil. This male goat was meant o cement the marriage and it acted, in addition as a common bond between the two families.


Traditional religion and taboos

The Basamia –Bagwe had an idea of a supreme being called Were or Nsaye.
Were said to dwell in heaven and to be responsible for creating the earth and heavenly bodies. They also believed in ancestral spirits. Ancestral spirits were believed to intervene in human affairs and were known to cause harm, death and misfortune if not properly attended to.
For this reason, each home stead had a family shrine on which to feed and appease the ancestral spirits. These spirits could be called upon in the event of sickness or misfortune and they were normally appealed to for good health, fertility of women and good harvests.
The Basamia- Bagwe believed in the existence of omwoyo, the heart of a living thing. They believed that when some one died, then omwoyo would take flight in the form of a shadow or wind. Such a departed spirit becomes omusambwa.
It resides in graveyards and shrines.
Emisambwa are believed to have power to interfere with the living. They also act as a link between Nsaye and the living. Emisambwa had their abode in Emagombe, ie in the underworld.
Their Taboos varied from clan to clan and no one would eat his toterm.
The society was patrilineal and women took up the clans and taboos of their husbands. This was a taboo for a parent to sleep in the same hut as his son-in-law and once children had grown to a certain age, roughly ten years, they would not sleep in the same hut as their parents.
Women were not supposed to eat chicken, pork and lung fish. The Basamia-Bagwe also believed in witch craft and curses.
Theft and immorally would result into being bewitched or cursed.Basamia –Bagwe also valued rain makers, abakimba.


Dress code

The men used to wear goat skins while the women wore sketchy coverings made of tree leaves. The children walked around completely naked. The people used to sleep on a bare floor by fire. If, however, some one was rich enough to afford it, he could sleep on a skin.


Political set up

They did not have chieftainships. Every village was under the jurisdiction of an elder called the Nalundiho. Besides being a political figure, the Nalundiho was also a rain maker.
He administered law and order and he was responsible for settlement of disputes. He was the most influential person into the village and his position was hereditary.
His powers were widened by his role as a rain make. It is said, for instance that if any one refused to settle his debt the Nalundiho would deny that debtor’s location rain until the debts were duly settled.
Because of his capacity as a rainmaker, nobody could taste any of the new harvests before the Nalundiho did so. Wizardry was decried and if caught, a wizard could be killed.



Their economy was simple. It was based on subsistence agriculture. They grew millet, sorghum, cassava and a variety of beans. Besides, they reared cattle, goats and chickens.
Land was communally owned on a clan basis and there was enough land for all.