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Suri; Indigenous People

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Submitted By kskk
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An oral presentation about the indigenous people the Suri.
Today I would like to talk about a people whose culture is under constant treat due to the world that surrounds them. This people have suffered great changes to their society because of influence from the outside world. Many considers them to be savage and should learn to be more civilized, and that the best way to teach them our way of living is to introduce western ideals through modernization and development, bringing means to the restructuring of their society. Let’s have a look at these savage people.
The Suri lives in the south-west of Ethiopia, not far from the border to Sudan. It’s an area of low hills and savannah grassland, roughly the size of the country of Dorset – and it’s home to about 30,000 Suri.
The Suri are semi-nomadic cattle-herders, meaning that they live in settled villages, but whenever the need arises they move with their cattle to find better grazing. Although there is plenty of water available during the rain-season, these seasons are very unpredictable. In recent years there have been long periods of drought, resulting in severe famine. Similar other pastoral nomads all over the world, cattle play a massively important role in this society. Their culture is quite different and nothing like anything we would be custom to up in the north. For example; whilst we tend to measure wealth in the number of cars and cabins a family owns, the Suri measure it by how many cattle a person own. There’s a strong bond between the people and their animals. But they’re not just viewed in terms of their financial value, there’s real care and affection for them. They lit fires, not only for themselves, but for the cattle to keep them warm during the chilly nights.
To extend on the role of the cattle, in the Suri language all words for colour come from cattle coat colours or patterns. They even compose music for them, and view them as a part of their human society. Therefore, it may not come as a surprise that the Suri don’t eat a lot of meat. Mostly, they get milk and blood from the cattle. They enjoy the blood, warm and fresh straightaway after slicing open a small section of a leg or feet. This process doesn’t kill the cattle; it can be repeated with intervals for about a month without the animal suffering any harmful effects. As to the question of why they choose to do this, the Suri men believe that the blood of the cattle will strengthen them to become great warriors. Suri men see themselves first and foremost as warriors – fierce fighters who need to be ready at any moment to protect their people. So, from their early days, Suri boys learn how to fight. One usual mean of achieving this goal, is to arrange stick fighting contests, called Dongas. They’re colourful and important social occasions when men and women can meet and flirt and check out potential partners. Often the women observe the boy’s bravery in the fight and tend to be attracted to the better fighter. There are very few rules in these fights, and it’s not uncommon that someone dies during these events.
A tradition that really makes these people recognizable to others, is the lip-plate worn by Suri women when they’re old enough. It’s made out of clay and inserted into either their ears or lips which ultimately widen their lips or ears to a dramatic size. The insertion happens when they’re preparing for marriage; their lower teeth are removed and a cut is made in the lip which is stretched to allow room for the lip plate – sounds rather like a nasty process. The women only wear these when in the company of men. Back home, or with other females, they remove the plate and allow the lip to dangle. No one really knows why or how this tradition came to be, but it serves a significant function in their society. One woman said that because of the great size of her lip, she received a lot of cattle when she married. But the times are changing. Increasing contact with the outside world means that the Suri are more aware of the way that woman elsewhere live. Some refuses to undergo the pain and disfigurement of the tradition, in a sense breaking up the traditional societal structure.
The Suri is in constant conflict their neighbors, and violence is a fact of life. They’re fighting to preserve gracing areas for their cattle, and raids and cattle theft is just another day at work. Outside influence has brought them guns which have had a huge negative effect. In recent years guns have flooded into this area from nearby Sudan where there’s a bitter civil war goin on. And the availability of guns has upset the social order of the group. Instead of listening to the elders and solving disputes in the traditional way, tempers flare and bullets fly. Young men no longer have respect for authority and increasingly resolve disputes among themselves by use of the gun. Hundreds of people have been killed in this way over the past few years.
Over the years the Suri has learned to live in a challenging and unpredictable environment where conflict with their neighbors over limited resources has been a regular occurrence.
Now they have to find a way of restoring order and respect among their own people.
It may be impossible to preserve these traditions in a world where progress push inherit values aside and expects everyone to act accordingly. Somehow I suspect the conservation of these tribes will be respected by outside influence, at least to some extent, by programs implemented by UN and other powerful institutions whose only mission is the conserve cultures exactly like that of the Suri.

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