The Nuer, mainly live in Southern Sudan in the east Upper Nile Province around the junction of the Nile River with the Bahr el Ghazal and Sobat Rivers, and extending up the Sobat across the Ethiopian border. …
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They began an especially active migration about the mid 1800s. As they moved gradually east, they pushed the Anuak farther east into Ethiopia. During this period many Dinka people were incorporated into the Nuer community. Atuot and Nuer traditions indicate origins with the Dinka in what is now known as Western Nuerland. These traditions say the separation of the three occurred due to a dispute over cattle ownership.Like many of his pastoral neighbors, a Nuer man's dearest possession is his cattle. Life depends on cattle and a Nuer will risk his life to defend them or to raid his neighbor's cattle. The Nuer worldview is built around the herds and prestige is measured by the quantity and quality of the cattle a man owns. Men and women take the names of their favourite oxen or cows and prefer to be greeted by their cattle names. While they do engage in agricultural pursuits, the care of cattle is the only labour they enjoy. It is said that conversation on virtually any subject will inevitably involve a discussion of cattle.The Nuer, a tall and very dark people, and are related to the Dinka, who live to their west, and their culture is very similar. The Nuer, call themselves Naath, meaning "human beings." The Nuer, Dinka and Atwot (Atuot) are sometimes considered one ethnic group.Their culture is organized around cattle. But since the Nuer people live in the Upper Nile valley, Nile perch is also an essential part of their economy. Grains and vegetables supplement this diet. None of the food commodities are produced for market purposes. Cattle are not primarily for food, but Nuer drink their milk. Meat is eaten at important celebrations when an animal is sacrificed.
The Nuer living pattern changes according to the seasons of the year. As the rivers flood, the people have to move farther back from the river onto higher ground, where the women cultivate millet and maize while the men herd the cattle nearby. In the dry season, the younger men take the cattle herds closer to the receding rivers. Cooperative extended family groups live around communal cattle camps.
Cattle play an important part in Nuer religion and ritual. Cows are dedicated to the ghosts of the owner's lineages and any personal spirits that may have possessed them at any time. The Nuer believe they establish contact with these ancestor ghosts and spirits by rubbing ashes along the backs of oxen or cows dedicated to them, through the sacrifice of cattle. No important Nuer ceremony of any kind is complete without such a sacrifice.
NUER COW - 1930's
It was the Dry season of 1931 and I had recently been purchased by a young, tall man from a small tribe in Southern Sudan. He purchased me as a wedding gift for his new wife, who was later revealed to be the one who was my primary milker.
When I was taken back to their tribal area, I was in complete surprise at how many other cattle there were surrounding me. I had never seen anything like it, as I had been bought up in a relatively poor community. The fact that there were many other cattle neighbouring me gave me the impression that the tribe I had now been apart of, must have been fairly rich.
I couldn't help but wonder why I was chosen out of all the other cattle, to be taken back to this place. I thought that it might've been because I was relatively plump and fat, and this worried me.
My owner would occasionally rub ash across my back and speak of ceremonial chants, in a very loud and daunting matter. It
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