The Ilchamus (sometimes spelled Ilchamus or Iltiamus, also known as Njemps), are a Maa people living south and southeast of Lake Baringo, Kenya. They number about 35,000 and are closely related to the Samburu living more to the north-east in the Rift Valley Province. Their language is one of the Eastern Nilotic Maa languages, closely related to the Samburu language (between 89% and 94% lexical similarity), to the point of it being considered a Samburu dialect by some. Together, Samburu and Ilchamus form the northern division of the Maa languages. [Heine 1980; Vossen 1982]
In their oral traditions, the Ilchamus economy underwent a succession of elaborations: from foraging and fishing to a sophisticated system of irrigation, and then this was mixed with pastoralism under the influence of Samburu immigrants and neighbouring Maasai. These changes involved a series of embellishments in their culture and social organization. [Spencer 1998: 129-203]. However, this evolving system did not survive the challenges of the capitalist economy in post-colonial Kenya, leading to a more polarized society with diminishing prospects for the majority of Camus. [Little 1992]
- Heine, Bernd (1980) The Non-Bantu languages of Kenya. (Language and Dialect Atlas of Kenya 2.) Berlin: Dietrich Reimer.
- Little, Peter D., (1992), The Elusive Granary: Herder, Farmer and State in Northern Kenya. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
- Spencer, Paul, (1998), The Pastoral Continuum: the Marginalization of Tradition in East Africa, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
- Vossen, Rainer (1982) The Eastern Nilotes. Linguistic and historical reconstructions (Kölner Beiträge zur Afrikanistik 9). Berlin: Dietrich Reimer.
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