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Elgeyo People

Updated on May 26, 2014

Welcome to the hub series of African people from A to Z . I will proudly present in this article for the letter E The Elgeyo people. It is really very tough to select one from each letter; there are so many lovely people in Africa and with such awesome cultures, I prefer to write an encyclopedia about them all. For now I will have to select only one tribe.

The information for this tribe is somehow mixed. I also found some great web-pages from Kenya, I thought they were more factual but were written in French and other blogs in which the writers merely got their message into my intellectual level. I had to search different places and read everything I found to come up with the answers for my series of African people.

Who are the members of this tribe?

The members of the tribe Elgeyo are one of Kenya's lesser known groups mentioned as the Elgeiyo, Marakwet, Kalenjin, Nandi, Keyu or Keiyo people (approx.144,000 people). This tribe is part of a larger ethnic grouping of eight culturally and linguistically related tribes known as the Kalenjin ethnic group (representing 12% of Kenya's tribes) of nilotic origin.

The name Keiyo or Elgeyo ('El-gay-o') has been used substitutively to define the tribe. The names being disputed comes as a corruption of the former true name which resulted from the Uasin-Gishu Maasai who were the neighbors of the Keiyo in the mid 19th century at the Western side of Eldoret, from where they started to call them Elgeyo.

Where are they located?

There are about 42 different ethnic groupings in Kenya which are grouped into larger sub-groups.The Elgeyo moved away from the eastern grazing lands of the Great Rift Valley at the end of British colonial rule in 1963, during the expansion of the Maasai tribe.

They live near Eldoret, Kenya in the highlands of the Keiyo District. The various communities among the Keiyo divided their land into 16 east to west stretches to prevent inbreeding and displacement of a community by other individuals and a system of totems were acquired.

Due to population growth over time, the Elgeyo/Keiyo community gradually moved and settled in urban areas to do business in major urban centers including Eldoret town where they are now actively engaged in business alongside the Marakwets, Nandis and other non-Kalenjins.

Elgeyo Marakwet County is in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya in Africa. The county is also known by the name Marakwet and the dominant community is of the Marakwet tribe.

Kenya, Africa


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How do they live?

The Elgeyo/Keiyo social organization centers around the age-set, or ibinda. There are age-sets (ibinwek) which are rotational, meaning at the end of one age-set new members of that generation are born. Ibinda was given out at initiation. There ought to be one ibinda between a father and a son. The Elgeyo/Keiyo don't consider a woman to have an age-set, hence she can marry any age-set except that in which her father belongs.

The order is as follow:

  • Maina
  • Chumo
  • Sawe
  • Kipkoimet
  • Korongoro
  • Kaplelach
  • Kipnnyigei
  • Nyongi

The Elgeyo/Keiyo county is accessible by road through most of the other Rift Valley counties from the capital city of Kenya Nairobi. They also have the benefit of options when a hospital is needed such as:

  • Africa Inland Church Kapsowar Hospital
  • Iten District Hospital
  • Chebiemit District Hospital

How do they communicate

Their language is a dialect known as keiyo (Language code 'eyo') from the macro-language of kalenjin a language of the Southern section of the Nilotic branch, which is part of the Chari-Nile language group of Africa.

How do they survive?

The Elgeyo/Keiyo subsist mainly on grain and the milk, blood and meat provided by their cattle, sheep and goats. They practice small-scale crop farming and livestock rearing.

The Elgeyo/Keiyo people have some banks which in a way could represent diverse perspectives.

  • Kenya Commercial Bank
  • Barclays Bank
  • Co-operative Bank
  • Equity Bank
  • Post Bank

"They are turning a devastating situation into a life-improving situation." says Shana

Lake Victoria by Lukas Bergstrom
Lake Victoria by Lukas Bergstrom | Source

What characteristics define their diversity?

Some characteristics to define their diversity are:

1)Their oral tradition was, and still is to some degree very important; it has four main genres:

  • Narrative stories (contain both people and animals. Certain animals have attributes that are concrete representations of character traits).
  • Songs (accompany both work and play as well as ceremonial occasions such as births, initiations, and weddings).
  • Proverbs (convey important messages in very concise ways and are often used when elders settle disputes or advise youngsters).
  • Riddles (involve word play and are especially popular with children).

2)Traditional names often refer to some circumstance when the child was born.

  • Kipchoge = a boy born near the granary
  • Kibet = a boy born during the day
  • Cherutich = a girl born as the cows were coming back home
  • Jepkemoi = a girl born at night

3)Diversity among these people are a whole world in itself; let me just mention three from a long list:

  • Moses Kiptanui is one of the best athletes of all time.
  • Nicholas Biwott is one of Kenya's most powerful politicians and an able administrator.
  • Lornah Kiplagat is a world champion long distance runner. She is not one of those people that grew high and forgot from where she came from. Watch the video at the end and you will understand what I mean.

Lornah, Nicholas and Moses

Final Observations

I learned so much searching for this article and I felt diverse emotions from inside out of my heart...this deep, warm feeling of profoundness for Africa grows each second.

"It is not from where you come from, it is about who you want to be...wherever you are ." Is one of the deepest lessons and words that came into my soul after I wrote this article. I went through so many intellectual people from Kenya that I am surprised of many foreign perspectives of Africa; actually one of my intentions with these articles is to expose the diversity of Africa from good to bad, wrong and right, true and false.

Wow! Africa is so big that it is making me grow with it...I invite you to stay up with these articles...we have a long way to grow in their expansion. This was the E from the A to Z series of my African people articles.

Blessings to all!

© Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill

© 2012 Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      What are your thoughts on a chrcuh that agrees with you on virtually every area, but has Sunday as the Sabbath. Does this mean they are not saved? I don't think I should leave the chrcuh because God is truely at work there. I'm just looking to get your thoughts. I didn't see any mention in the article and I was curious (maybe I missed it). I absolutely love the site by the way, and learned a life altering lesson in your article about Hell not being eternal torment. That brings everything together for me and I thank you. I am looking into formal bible training.

    • Lastheart profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 

      8 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      hockey8mn thanks! Africa has so much to give. Hope you make that climb on Mt. Kilimanjaro and visit Kenya.

    • hockey8mn profile image


      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Very cool hub. I hope to make it to Kenya someday. Want to go climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and visit Kenya while I am at it. Voted up and awesome.

    • Lastheart profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 

      8 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Justsilvie thanks and nice meeting you by your interesting profile and blog

      Moving to another culture is very interesting I am looking forward to read what do you have to say about it. My husband is American and I am from Puerto Rico...our destiny is Africa. I will see what I will learn from your experiences. Thanks for the follow.

    • Lastheart profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 

      8 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Hello shiningirisheyes I hope you are well. The similarity I guess comes from what civilization has taken us away. Thanks for reading.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very interesting and well done Hub. Look forward to reading more of your work.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      8 years ago from Upstate, New York

      This particular Elgeyo Tribe have similar reflections of my American Indian heritage.

      Well-written and so interesting.

      I look forward to your next addition.

    • Lastheart profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 

      8 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Good day dwachira. Thanks so much! How wonderful to read your comment! It represents more than a comment because I perceive that you know what Africa, culture and diversity is about.

      A friend is waiting for the M also and I am waiting for the day that I step on Africa territory.

      I will read our hub.

    • dwachira profile image

      Danson Wachira 

      8 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hi Lastheart,

      I have a habit of discovering great articles very late, i have just discovered this awesome series about African people and tribes. Am a fun of people, their culture and traditions, visiting these tribes, one discovers that there is so much preserved over the years and not getting influenced by civilization. I did an article about the Maasai people: and i can't wait to read your series when it gets to 'M'.

      Elgeyo people are some of the kind people in the world, they love one another and they love visitors too just like the Maasai. Although the distance runner Lornah Kiplagat is now married in Netherlands, she still comes back home to her community and she has initiated a lot of development project for her community and Kenyans as a country. One of her such projects is the High altitude training center for young talented runners that she started with her coach husband.

      This is one of the best articles that i have ever read here about Africa, many actually don't know much about Africa from first hand experience. Am going to follow this series and i can wait for the next article. Voted up, useful and shared.

    • Lastheart profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 

      8 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Thanks for being there Froggy213.

      Chester Higgins Jr. quoted and I seconded it:

      "We are not Africans because we are born in Africa, we are Africans because Africa is born in us."

    • Froggy213 profile image

      Greg Boudonck 

      8 years ago from Returned to an Isla Del Sol - Puerto Rico Will Rise Strong

      You did another great job on this one my love. Keep 'em coming.


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