History Of The Acholi Tribe

The Acholi Tribe

The Acholi Tribe speak a language that is spoken in northern Uganda and South Sudan. They speak a Western Nilotic language that is part of the Eastern Sudanic branch of the Nilo-Saharan family. There are more than a million of them as of the turn of the 21st century, and they are related to their traditional enemies, the Lango who live nearby.

The Acholi are descended from different Luo-speaking groups that are thought to have moved into what is now the Acholi district of Uganda three or four hundred years ago from nearby parts of what is now South Sudan.

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Each Acholi village is part of a small chiefdom, and each chiefdom has several patrilineal clans. Chiefs are picked from the same family tree. These people, the Acholi, live in small towns with their male ancestors. Pastoralism is important to them, but not as much as it is to some other Nilotic groups.

The Acholi eat millet as a main food source and grow tobacco for trade. Other savanna crops that are grown are sorghum, corn (maize), beans, squash, peanuts (groundnuts), and others. Clans own the land where people hunt. It is important to fish in streams and swamps.

The Acholi were considered a martial people by the British, and many joined the military. Under Ugandan Pres. Idi Amin (1971–79) the Acholi were severely persecuted and their men systematically executed for their past association with the colonial army and for their support of Pres. Milton Obote (1962–71, 1980–85).

Economy Of The Acholi Tribe

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. When not disrupted or dispossessed by the violence endemic since the mid-1980s, most Acholi remain primarily mixed farmers. The old staples of eleusine (finger) millet, sorghum, sesame, and various peas, beans, and leafy green vegetables continue to be grown, along with twentieth-century crops such as cassava, maize, peanuts (groundnuts), fruits, and cotton. As they have for centuries, Acholi farmers rely mainly on iron hoes and other hand tools.

The most common domestic animals are (and have long been) chickens and goats, with some cattle, especially in the dryer portions of Acholi. Large, dry-season hunts were an important part of the precolonial economy; these gradually decreased in significance as the varied roster of both large and small game animals dwindled over the twentieth century.

Industrial Arts. Ironworking, mainly but not entirely confined to certain lineages, appears to be almost as ancient as agriculture, going back perhaps to the first millennium b.c. Pottery and basket making were widespread and relatively nonspecialized arts, carried out by both men and women. In most chiefdoms, only members of designated lineages could make or repair royal drums.