The Kisii Tribe

The Kisii tribe (also frequently called the Gusii tribe), holds territory in the very western regions of Kenya, in some of the most densely populated areas of the country. Kenya's third city, Kisumu, is located in this area.

Their lands are along the shores of huge Lake Victoria near the border with Uganda and Tanzania. In modern Kenya, their lands are still called the Kisii district.

A Wealthy Tribe

Their land is part of the wet highlands, some of the most fertile territory in all of Kenya. Many prosperous tea and coffee plantations are found here, giving the Kisii substantial economic and financial power.

This in turn has led to many members of the Kisii tribe travelling out of Africa for education. Though there are still a lot of Kisii living in rural areas, they are a very "modern" tribe and found in most major cities in Kenya, due to their wealth.

Not only is the Kisii land fertile, so are the people. The Kisii tribe has one of the fastest growing populations in the world.

History of the Kisii

The Kisii are part of the larger group of Bantu speaking tribes who migrated to the edge of Kenyan territory from the Congo. It's likely they were migrating with other related tribes, the Kikuyu and the Kamba, but split off as the other groups moved farther into Kenya.

Once isolated from the rest of their Bantu people, the Kisii found themselves frequently battling against the neighbouring tribes of Luo, Nandi and Masai (all part of the rival Nilotic group of tribes). This environment created a culture more focused on combat, and even today the Kisii tribe are viewed as being very strong and aggressive.

They have always been agriculturalists since arriving in Kenya, and have turned to cash crops in modern times rather than subsistence farming.

Kissi Religion and Culture

More than 75% of modern Gusii are Christian, but there are some who do still hold to their traditional monotheistic religion. Their god is called Engoro, who was the supreme creator. He was the cause of thunderstorms and lightening. People could communicate with Engoro only through the spirits of their dead ancestors, a common belief through Kenya. Witchcraft is still feared, even among the Christian Kisii, as well as other types of evil spirits.

Medicine men were highly respected members of the village, as they protected people from witches and spirits. They were also called upon for healing and help with fertility.

Kisii society is different from many other tribes, and is not broken up by age sets. Families are large, with several generations often living together in close groups of round huts. Men sometimes had more than one wife, but that custom is not as popular as it once was.

Young people are initiated into adulthood by circumcision, both male and female. The female ritual is no longer permitted in Kenya, but it is still frequently performed. Female circumcisions is more common among the Kisii tribe than any other tribe.

Related pages:

Tribes in Kenya - Main page
List of Kenya tribes with short descriptions

From Kisii Tribe to the Homepage