During our Friday night movie Julitha, one of our students, asked us, “Bibi, Babu, what is your tribe”? When Tom went to the hospital in Lushoto and again in Arusha for his knee, this was one of the questions on the registration form. Friday night was the first time we were asked the question in person. It gave us pause to think of what our answer should be. We explained that the United States is a country of people of many nationalities, but that only Native Americans referred to their heritage a “tribes”. Julitha persisted and asked again, so I answered Irish and Tom said Scottish.
Going back into history, Tanzania has been made up of many different tribes or ethnic groups. The first president of Tanzania, Julius Nyrere, established Kiswahili as the official national language in order to unite all of these groups as one people. Today most Tanzanians speak Kiswahili, their tribal language, and also some English.
The Lushoto area is primarily make up of the Sambaa people. Among those here at Irente Children’s Home, many are Sambaa, but also there are students from the Masai, Pare, and Chagaa tribes.
When we returned home from the movie, I picked up a Newsweek magazine sent to us by our friend Kathy from Iowa. I had been reading an article on the Titanic centennial. When I turned the page, the next article was entitled “What’s Your Tribe?” by E.O. Wilson. Mr. Wilson is a “renowned Harvard biologist” according to Newsweek. The blurb after the title explains that Wilson “says our drive to join a group - and fight for it- is what makes us human”. Wilson says that “everyone, no exception, must have a tribe, an alliance with which to jockey for power and territory, to demonize the enemy, to organize rallies and raise flags. And so it has ever been”.
This made me re-think my answer to Julitha’s question. What is my tribe? Looking at the question in relation to the Newsweek article, I am unsure. The answer for Americans is more complicated than it would be for a Tanzanian. I guess I would have to say that I am an American, a Christian, a Lutheran. Politically, I am not a party-line person. My sports affiliations are non-existant when it comes to professional sports of any kind, though I will root for the Phillies and “Go Navy, beat Army”. (with apologies to our nephew Michael)
So, what’s your tribe? Where is your allegiance? Unlike me, have you ever given this any thought? What does your answer say about you?