Skip to comments.Masai say sorry with cows for September 11
Posted on 06/03/2002 9:08:22 AM PDT by dead
Skyscrapers are a foreign concept to the Masai people who live in this corner of Kenya, where the tallest things on the vast horizon are the acacia trees and the giraffes that feed on them.
So when Kimeli Naiyomah, 25, returned to his village from his studies in the United States recently, he found only the vaguest understanding among his fellow Masai of what had happened in that faraway place called New York on September 11.
Some in this nomadic community of cattle raisers knew nothing of it. However, most learnt of the attacks from the radio soon after they occurred.
But the horrible television images passed by many Masai, who got electricity only shortly before the attacks.
In the oral tradition they rely on, Mr Naiyomah sat them down and told them stories that left them stunned, saddened and wanting to do something.
On Sunday, in a solemn ceremony in a grassy clearing, they did, blessing 14 cows which the tribe was giving to the people of the US.
Elders chanted in Maa, the local language, as they walked in a circle around the cows, animals that the Masai hold sacred.
There are three cherished things a Masai can offer as a gift: a child, a plot of land and a cow, which is far more than a source of meat and milk.
After the blessing, the cows were handed over to William Brencick, the deputy chief of mission of the US embassy in Nairobi.
He thanked the Masai, but said transporting the livestock would be difficult, so he would probably sell the animals at a market and buy Masai jewellery to give to the US instead.
Mr Naiyomah plans to go to medical school and return to the village as a doctor.
He had been visiting New York on September 11 and came home last month with first-hand accounts of the horror.
Vincent Konchellah, who donated one of his 12 cows, said: "We feel the same way we would feel if we lost one of our own."
A moooving choice. ;^)
Their culture will be gone in 5 years.
Haven't you heard, Bob Johnson from BET wants to "wire" all of Africa. Of course, he wants the franchise.....that's why he went with Clinton to Africa.
My husband and I wondered if we shouldn't wire them for electricity first.
Or just fence off the Rose Garden!
I do think that William Brencick, the deputy chief of the Nairobi mission, could use a few more lessons in diplomacy.
Even if we're not going to fly the cows to America, he doesn't really need to announce that our government will immediately liquidate this heartfelt gift into a more mobile commodity. Show a little tact, Billy.
I do think that William Brencick, the deputy chief of the Nairobi mission, could use a few more lessons in diplomacy. Even if we're not going to fly the cows to America, he doesn't really need to announce that our government will immediately liquidate this heartfelt gift into a more mobile commodity. Show a little tact, Billy.
Actually, that's a little unfair.
There's a much better version of the story at the BBC's website here. Included in that version is the following:
'Expression of regard'It's a win-win-win situation.
The US national anthem played as the herdsmen handed over the cattle.
"I know that for the Masai people the cow is valued above all possessions and that the gift of a cow is the highest expression of regard and sympathy," Mr Brancick said.
"When we count the value of these cows, and when we add the value of the great spirits that gave them, we can say without doubt that you seem richer still."
The cattle will not be taken to America but will be sold at a local market and the proceeds used to buy beads.
Masai women will then fashion traditional beadwork with commemorative messages, including perhaps the Stars and Stripes of the US flag.
The Masai craftwork will then be handed over to the people of New York for display in the city.
The warrior spirit of the Masai is assuaged .. they could not fight, directly, in the war against terror but their gift will (indirectly) raise the morale of New Yorkers.
The US gets not only the symbolic value of the gift of cows, but also the tangible gift of the beadwork.
And the Masai women (and hence all villagers) get the payment made to them for their beadwork - all at no cost to the US taxpayer.
It strikes me that this was a classic, textbook example of diplomacy in action.
Don't diss your diplomats .. they have come a _very_ long way since "The Ugly American".
I'm glad we were more gracious than the article I posted led me to believe.
Kudos to William Brencick.
Its good to see such a simple culture I'd much rather have the Masai for friends than the French.
Ladies and gents, those 14 cows represented FAR more of their gross material wealth than if one of our cities raised a few million and sent it their way.
Parable of the Widow's Mite
Gospel of Luke 21, verses 1-4
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