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Peoples and Cultures

Hima, Ham and Cush
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins

What do you think of the Ham/Cush connection with the Hima lineage? I read what you wrote about the Bahiima. I am from the Bahiima clan.

I have not found anything relating Hima people to Ham or Cush.  One difficulty in making connections is the mythical character of pre-history references and names, since they are unclear.  The term Ham has no clear definition, and nothing to tie it to our historical knowledge or current oral traditions.

There has been lots of speculation about what it might have meant, though.  Unfortunately, much of this speculation has been far-fetched and imaginative reflections on the scant references to the names in the book of Genesis, without awareness of current information on peoples or regions.

The term Cush is more firm, but the geographical boundaries are unclear, and ancient references are unclear.  The ethnic and biological lineage information is even more vague.

The term Hamite, from the name Ham, was used in an earlier era for a grouping of language in northeastern and Sahel Africa, and sometimes still appears in some references as a language family name, though this is currently not common.  More common comparative language systems do not use the term.

Cushite Languages
Because the land of Cush is an established name in history, the term Cushite is still used to designate a group of languages.  There is a line of connection of the Tutsi and related peoples to the Cushite language group and ethnicities in Eastern Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya).

What I have learned from specialists in the Lakes area ethnicities and histories that include the Hima indicates that the likely Hima origin is from a Nilotic stream north in Sudan.  I mention in my article that the Hima groups and the Tutsi groups became associated as nobility and militarily superior over the Bantu peoples living in the region. 

The two have become somewhat mixed, and identities have become less clear because all the peoples have come to speak Bantu language varieties.  Thus you would find various origin histories in various families or clans and language groups of the Tutsi-Hima peoples.

It is not unusual for a tribe to have more than one myth of origin, indicating originally separate peoples that have become one for some reason.  This is definitely the case with the Kikuyu, the largest tribe in East Africa (Central Kenya), whose history, mythology and oral traditions have been very well documented.  I am not aware of a lot of detailed and definitive information on this aspect of Hima origins and identities.

Also related:
Anything But Ordinary (Paul Rusesabagina)
The Hima People of Eastern Africa
The Tutsi People – Blog
Tutsi, Hutu and Hima – Cultural Background in Rwanda
Tutsi and Chwezi:  History and Pre-History
Tutsis – the Ethiopia-Somalia Connection

Also related on the Internet:
The Hima Peoples
Kingdoms of Uganda
Bunyoro-Kitara Virtual Museum
Nyankore-Hima:  PeopleGroups.org
Nyankore:  Ethnologue
The Origins of the Wanga Kingdom
What is an Ethnic Group?


First written in answer to an email enquiry to Thoughts and Resources 25 August 2005
Posted 28 August 2005
Last edited 15 May 2015

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD

Copyright © 2005 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use. Other rights reserved.

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