Origin of Clans among the Kipsigis people

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A typical Kalenjin hut. Photo/Courtesy

The clan system is an area of considerable interest to the Kalenjin community. Clans are groups of families that claim to descent from a common male ancestor. Therefore, clan members are theoretically blood relatives.

Many young members of the Kalenjin community have been always urged to be keen on understanding the clan system since clan identity is considered an essential part of the Kalenjin social life as far as progeny is concerned.

The following are some of the Kipsigis clans and their origins we managed to get;

Boek

This clan was founded by a man nicknamed Kiboek since he was popularly known for killing bushbuck, locally called boinet.  He had fled home after quarreling with his elder brother called Kimeito. He also had another brother called Kiborowo.  The totem of this clan is the elephant while the war division is Kipkaige.

Boguserek

The origin of this clan can be traced to Maa speakers of Laikipia where a woman had two children, Bonge and Kipsomoi. She is said to have left their land during a severe drought. That woman was nicknamed Chesamich since she was rarely seen anywhere apart from the forest which simply translates to samiyta in the Kalenjin language. They were found by a man called Tiror of the Okiek descent who took them to his home.  The two children were later abducted by a Gusii man of Abagusero clan. Later, when the number of their descendants increased, they founded the Boguserek clan. This clan is usually associated with hard work and craftsmanship. Their totem is the buffalo while their war division is Kipkaige.

Boswetek

The origin of this clan can be traced to a man from Tugen called Kipgugoindet who joined Kipsigis warriors on a raiding mission to Gusiiland. He later got married in Gusiiland and settled down in Kipsigis country. His relationship with his Abagusii in-laws blossomed and later several of his wife’s relatives moved and settled in Kipsigis land and formed a clan called Kibaek. They later established the Boswetek clan which is known in Gusii land as Abaketutu. The clan’s totem is python while their war division is Kebeni.

Kap-Barangwek  

The origin of this clan can be traced to the Okiek of Terik community. The founders are believed to be two brothers, Barangwa and Morasa who migrated to Kipsigis and settled there. Their offspring included Tomno, Kibiwot and Tekwendet. It is said that this clan encountered the last remaining members of the mysterious tribe called Sirikwa. This clan believes that part of their wealth belongs to Sirikwa. The clan’s totem is the elephant while the war division is Kebeni.

Kap-Bargesaek

The origin of this clan is associated with the descendants of a sacrificial girl called Chesong’ony. It is said that Kipsigis had gathered to offer the girl as a sacrifice to god of rain (ilet) when the girl suitor killed the rain god. He threw his sword and chopped the rain god into two, took away the girl and married her. The name Barkesa means kill in the course of prayer which he found as a result of his union with chesong’ony. The clan’s totem is red ants while the war division is Kipkaige.

Kap-Barsumek

The origin of this clan is believed to be a Maasai warrior who was ambushed and captured by a man called Kamosi while watering his cattle. Kamosi drove the Maasai cattle and adopted the young man. It is believed the Maasai warrior had long hair by the time he was captured hence, the name of the clan simply translates to kill the hair.

From there the clan split away from the Kapkomosik clan which was believed to be the avid killers of other people. The clan’s totem is a monkey and the war group division was Kebeni.

Kap-Echerek 

A man from Gusii got married to a woman from Keiyo but when the war broke between Abagusii and Kipsigis, she fled with his children and took refuge among the Kapkomosik clan. Her descendants later migrated to Maasai land but returned to Kipsigis land where they later formed their clan and named it Kap-echerek. However, they retained their totem as a monkey while their war division is Kebeni.

Kap-Chebororek

The clan is associated with a man called Cheboror who had a brother called Kiprotich Arap Kericho who distinguished himself as a maker of effective medicine. The man lived where Kericho town stands today. According to the legend, a fight broke out between the two brothers over a hunting dog. Cheboror’s anger hit the ceiling when his brother refused to share with him the wild meat.  He then established his clan called Kap-kerichek. Years later, it is said that the two clans reconciled when a puppy was given to Kap-cheboror. The clan’s totem is a crested crane and their war is Kebeni.

Kap-Chebumbwek

This clan was associated with Maasai brothers called, Tamoo, Chebumbwo, and Sigilai who traveled and lived among the Kipsigis. According to the legend, Sigilai nicknamed Kimurkeldet or stained teeth returned to Maasai land and his brother Chebumbwo visited him frequently. These visits convinced the Maasai that Chebumbwo has learned more about Maasai hence becoming a threat to their safety hence he was expelled. The clan’s totem is the lion while their war division is Kebeni.

Kap-Chebures   

The founder of this clan was called Chebures from Keiyo. He had three sons called Manereryet, Barsingil and Kibet. The three brothers established strong families called Kap-Manereryet, Kap-Barsindit and Kibetuk. The clan’s totem is a red ant and their war division is Kasanet.

Kap cheroigik 

The clan originated from the Okiek community of Nandi. It is said to be closely related to Kap-Chepalungu clan but no details can justify it. The subdivision of this clan is Kap-Chepsang mainly found in Belgut. The clan’s totem is a baboon while their war division is Ngetunyo.

Kap-Cheurek

This clan is believed to have branched from one of the clans whose totem is a monkey called Kipyegenek. Their totem is monkey while their war division is Kipkaige.

Kap-Iyorya 

The clan is said to have originated from a Somali woman who was married to a man from the Babasik clan and gave birth to several sons. Her sons refused to pay a sheep as homicide compensation and as a result, they were expelled from Babasik clan hence they formed their clan and called Kap-iyorya. The clan’s totem is the hyena while their war division is Kipkaige.

Kap-Kechwoek

The founder of this clan was Kechwo who had a son called Chepnyeny-met. Kechwo is believed to have originated from the Okiek community. His brother Segeri was sold to Gusiiland during a famine in exchange for food. When Segeri returned, he could not find his kin hence he formed his clan. Their totem is frog while their war division is Kebeni.

Kap-Kesogek

According to history, a man called Kiptabisian had a brother called Resoot who was violen. The two brothers had to separate. To resolve the problem, Kiptabisian filled a small bag with soil sliced with his sword into halves and told his brother that they will be separated like the soil in the bag.  This clan’s subdivisions are Kiptabisek, Kap-Cheboin and Kap-Buret. Their totem is a lion while their war division is Kipkaige.

Kap-Kesundek

The clan is associated with a girl who dedicated her life to a bedridden grandmother who was abandoned by her community, the Sirikwa who were migrating away from the Kipsigis land. However, this history is disputed by other traditions which indicate that the founder was a man from Maasai land. Whichever the origin of the clan might be, several other clans emerged from this clan for instance; Kap-saosan, Kap-Chebokolwol, Kap-Kaon. The clan’s totem is a crested crane while their war division is Kebeni. Members of this clan are found mostly in Mombwo Bureti.

Kap-Kitolek

The founder of this clan was Kitol who was credited with apparatus for fire-making known as piyonet. Because of their flair in fire making, they were always invited to make a fire in the newly built houses. The clan’s totem is an elephant while their war division is Kebeni.

Kap-Kichwenek

The origin of this clan so far is not succinct but it is said to have migrated from Keiyo to Kipsigis and its members are mainly found in Ndanai, Bomet County. The clan’s totem is the hyena while their war division is Kebeni.

Tarnoek

The origin of this clan is not clear. However, members of this clan reside in parts of Kebeneti, Kaboloin, Kenekut, Kapkukerwet and Tinderet. Their totem is a velvet monkey while their war division is Kebeni.

Mabasik

According to history, the ancestor of this clan came from Gusiiland his name was Oniko and was blessed with five sons named, Sogero, Ongocho, Siocho, Moya and Oirire. The subdivision of this clan is Kibosiek. The clan’s totem is zebra while the war division is Kasanet.

MotoboriK

The clan originates from Gusiiland. It is believed to be associated with a man called siongi. Siongi was a man of short stature but brave. This was a man in many occasions mistreated by the Kipsigis warriors even after leading successful raids. The clan’s subdivisions are; Abasaragei, Abakwege, Abakekeni. Their totem is the hyena while their war division is Kipkaige.

Narachek

The founder of the clan is said to have originated from Gusiiland. His name was Naroche and is said to have come to Kipsigis land and take refuge in Kap-Soigoek. Naroche later got married to an adopted girl from Terik. Many years later Soigoek wanted to expel Naroche from Kipsigis land due to unspecified reasons but the girl pleaded with elders claiming that her children were related to the Kap- Soigoek. Subsequently, the Kap-Lochng’wonet sprung from the Narachek clan. The clan’s totem is hawk while their war division is Ng’etunyo.

Kipsirgoik

The clan is believed to have originated from a place called Sirgoit in Keiyo and its members are scattered all over the Kipsigis land. The clan’s totem is warthog while the war division is Ng’etunyo.

Kiptuiyek

Albeit scattered almost everywhere in the Kipsigis Nation, the origin of this clan is not succinct. However, it has the following subdivisions Kap-Chepkoisir, Kap-Cheng’aina and Kap-Sugondek. The clan’s totem is the lion while their war division is Kebeni.

Kip-Yegenek 

 It is believed that all clans whose totem are monkeys have their origin from Nandi. Kap-Maiga is a subdivision of this clan. The clan’s totem is a monkey while their war division is Kebeni.

Kip-Tebo 

This clan descended from a blind woman from Keiyo who would go around asking for directions hence the word teb. She had two sons who later took up the name and made it a clan. The subdivision of this clan is Kap-komuch-long. Their totem is the crested crane while their war division is Kebeni.

Kip-Matage  

The founder of the clan was called Ki-matage. The clan has several sub-clans for instance; Komut-Ket, Kap-Kuton, Kip-Mologek and Kap-Mochoek. The clan’s totem is a buffalo heifer. It is believed that the founder of this clan used to control large herd of buffalo and used to kill only males for food while preserving heifers. Their war division is Kebeni.

Kip-Meitek

This clan originated from the Okiek. The clan’s chant is “Kiram keldo koe moi”. Their totem is the elephant while their war division is Kipkaige.

Kipsamaek

This clan together with Kibasisek are considered “original” Kipsigis. It was founded by a man called Kipng’echer. It is among the clans that were there when the Kipsigis arrived at tuluap sigis in Londiani. This clan was assigned the role of defending the community both physically and spiritually. The clan’s totem is the lion while their war division is Kebeni.

Kip-Keswaek

This clan originated from Nandi and it is associated with a woman who had two sons who used to steal people’s millet using a knife that was locally called chepkeswait hence the name Kip-keswaek. The clan’s totem is a fox while their war division is Kebeni.

Kip-kogosek

This clan is said to have been hived off from Kap-sengerek which was found by a man called Kipng’echer. It was established by a boy who was raised by Kipng’echer after finding him killing eagles in the field. The boy was known for killing eagles for fun hence the name Kip-gogosek. The clan’s totem is an eagle while the war division is Kebeni.

Kip-Legenek

The origin of this clan has not been captured vividly. However, it has several subdivisions; Kapsirere, Kap- Kibuun, Kap-Sigowo, Kapchebuttany-buch and Chemumbe. According to the legend, a leopard gave birth in the house of a member of Kip-Legenek and the family did not touch the cubs until they were fully grown. It is said that the leopard once brought a large antelope as a sign of thanking the family. From then henceforth, the family took the leopard as their totem. The clan’s war division is Kebeni.

Kip-Bororek 

The clan originated from Maasai land and is associated with a woman who was called Chemurgeldet. The clan boasts of the bravest man called Mateb. The clan’s totem is a fox while their war division is Kebeni.

Kipcheromek

The origin of this clan can be traced to the Okiek community of Kenya. The clan’s totem is a dog while their war division was Kebeni albeit some say that it is Kipakige.

Kipkelesek

The founder of this clan was a man called Kipkeles. According to history, Kipkeles was killed by Maasai in a peace mission in Maasai land. A representative was sent to report the death of Kipkeles as a mere accident but the Kipsigis were not convinced. On his way back, the man was tripped on a tough grass, locally known as Kipricheit. He fell and bite his tongue, a salient sign that he had lied. The clan’s totem is the lion while their war division is Kipkaige.

Kip-Kendek

The origin of this clan can be traced to Nandi and is closely associated with Arap Mugeni. The clan has several sub-groups namely; Kap-leleito, Kap-chibitok, Kap-cherubet, Kap-sirikwa, Kap-matelong,Kap- mosin and Mosigiryo. The clan’s chant is sololo while their totem is a bee. Their war division is Kipkaige.

Kip-Bindoek

The origin of this clan can be traced to Oloikop Maasai and is associated with a woman who was called Chesamich as well as Tap-Yotin. The clan’s totem is buffalo while their war division is Ng’etunyo.

Kip-Bokwoek

The origin of this clan can be traced to Keiyo and is associated with Kipkeles as their ancestor. The clan is called Kap-Chegimwek in Belgut. It is said that Maasai invaded their village where the members of the clan lived. All mothers escaped with their children when the war cry broke out. However, one boy was left behind without anyone to take care of him. He lived on a poor diet hence caused his belly to distend hence the name kelesta. The clan’s totem is the lion while their war division is Kipkaige.

Kip-Bomuek

The origin of the clan can be traced to Tugen. One of the clan divisions is Kip-ichoch which was founded by a man who is said to have moved from his home temporarily away from his clan in search of food. Other subdivisions of the clan include; Kap-ingoroi, Kap- bung’ung’wo, Kap-takpketai and Kap-chesielek. The clan’s totem is a duiker while their war division is Kebeni.

Kap-Tuikong

The origin of this clan is not succinct. However, many members of this clan are found in Tenwek area Bomet County. The clan’s totem is the elephant while their war division was Kebeni.

Kip-Ang’wanek

The origin of this clan is believed to be Maasailand at a place called Ming’inai. Presently Menengai. The founders of the clan are said to be eight in number but it was only four of them who managed to establish the clan after others returned to Maasailand. The clan’s totem is Buffalo while their war division is Kasanet.

Talai

The origin of this clan can be traced to Nandi. The clan has two main divisions, namely; Kap-Sogon and Kap-Turgat which are associated with the first Orgoik of the Nandi community. Unlike other clans, Talai could not marry women who had previously conceived or had had children. This was done with a central aim of keeping their bloodline pure because of the religious role they played as the hereditary diviners. The clan’s totem is a lion while their war division is Kasanet.

It is important to note that Kipsigis clans are many hence we only managed to capture the origins of just a few but we promise to shed light on the ones that we left out.

Additional information from Bill Ruto’s book, The Kipsigis Heritage

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