Tribal History

The Gambia is made up of Eight different Tribes, which originate from the surrounding Countries: The River Gambia being the main epicentre means most of the different tribes originate either north, east or south of the river.

In the 14th century, the (Manding) Mali Empire of Mali – established by Mandinka, Sundiata Keita, leader of the Malinké people – encompassed the areas from the edge of the Sahara to the forests of the south in what is now Liberia and Sierra Leone. From East to West, it covered all the regions between Takedda beyond the Niger Buckle covering Senegambia on the Atlantic Ocean.

This vast empire controlled nearly all the trans-Saharan trade, and contact with the rulers of the Arab states to the north led the Mali rulers to embrace Islam with great enthusiasm. Though the rise of the Mali empire was swift its decline was slow. By the beginning of the 15th century, the empire had lost its hegemony over the affairs of the Western Sudan and had been reduced into the small area of Kangaba, where it had first originated.

By the middle of the 15th century a group of Mandingos drifted into the area of the Gambia River basin and with them came Islam. The Mandinksa make up the majority of the population being the largest tribe to settle in the Gambia, the majority of which live in the provinces, upper and central river division.

Are an ethnic group found in North Senegal, Mauritania and The Gambia, making up about 15% of the population, yet Wolof language and culture have a disproportionate influence because of their prevalence in the capital Banjul, where 50% of the population are Wolof.

Are the next largest community living in the Gambia, their people are believed to have pre-dated Mande and Fula peoples to the riverine coast of Senegambia, and may have migrated into Casamance before the 13th century. Though the origin of the Jolas is still unknown, it is now confirmed by both oral and written history that they are the people who have been longest resident in the Gambia and among the indigenous people of the Senegambian region. Jola in Mandinka means to “pay your dues” Traditionally the women tend the fields and grow crops while men tap Palm Wine and Palm Oil
Are Mandé people who descend from the Belfour and are closely related to the Imraguen of Mauritania. They were the founders of the ancient empire of Ghana c. 750-1240 CE) The settlers in Gambia are a minority group who live mainly in the up river division. Traditionally their people are traders, they are renowned as being successful business people, many are property owners and diamond dealers.

Are traditionally a nomadic, pastoralist, trading people, herding cattle, goats and sheep across the vast dry hinterlands of their domain, keeping somewhat separate from the local agricultural populations. Their tribe can be found as far north as Mauritania, all over West and central Africa and as far east as Sudan.

The Fula people form a minority in every country they live, but in Guinea they represent a plurality of the population (40%) In the Gambia they are often found as local trades. Commonly the corner shop will be known as the “Fula shop”.

Originated from Freetown, Sierra Leone, some still live in the area of George town where they had been resettled after the days of slavery as there was no way of knowing where they had originally been taken from. The Aku language which is still spoken in West Africa developed from the early West African Pidgin English.

Some scholars also argue that African slaves took this language to the New World where it helped give rise to the English-based creoles that developed there, including the Gullah language in coastal South Carolina and Georgia, Bahamian Dialect, Jamaican Creole, Belizean Kriol, Guyanese Creole, Sranan Tongo .

Are an ethnic group in Guinea-Bissau. Which have migrated to south Gambia They are known as Manjaku by the Manjacks themselves, Ndiago by the Wolofs, Manjaco by the Portuguese, and Manjaque by the French. Each of these terms means “I tell you” Their trade by tradition is typically Palm Wine and Palm Oil tappers.

Are the third largest ethnic group in Senegal, also present in Mauritania and The North bank of Gambia they are predominantly Fishermen by trade and their principal sport played is wrestling.

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