The Ilchamus (sometimes spelled Iltiamus, also known as Njemps), are a Maa-speaking 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 They are said to be the smallest ethnic group in Kenya. 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.
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. 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 Ilchamus.
- Heine, Bernd (1980). The Non-Bantu languages of Kenya. (Language and Dialect Atlas of Kenya 2). Berlin: Dietrich Reimer.
- Vossen, Rainer (1982). The Eastern Nilotes. Linguistic and historical reconstructions (Kölner Beiträge zur Afrikanistik 9). Berlin: Dietrich Reimer.
- Spencer, Paul (1998). The Pastoral Continuum: the Marginalization of Tradition in East Africa. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 129–203.
- Little, Peter D. (1992). The Elusive Granary: Herder, Farmer and State in Northern Kenya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Ethnologue report on Camus (as a Samburu dialect).
- Samburu and Camus on The Rosetta Project[permanent dead link]
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