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The Origin of the Iteso

All people in the world, including Iteso, are descendants of Noah, the only righteous man and his family who God saved in the famous Noah’s Ark after all people that had been living in the world were destroyed by God in a flood because of their sins. Noah had three sons: namely, Shem, Ham and Japheth (Genesis 9:18-19).

Noah’s sons are the greatest ancestors of all people now living all over the world. Noah’s sons and descendants multiplied and scattered to settle in all places all over the world. The Iteso are descendants of Ham. Ham gave birth to Cush (Ethiopia), Mizraim (Egypt), Put (Libya) and Canaan (Genesis 10:6).

Cush and his sons later went to settle in the land which was later called Ethiopia or Abyssinia. These people were crop farmers and pastoralists. For various push and pull factors, including conflicts, the search for water, fertile land and pasture for themselves and their animals, in 1300 AD some of Cush’s descendants who later came to be known as ITUNGA left Ethiopia and moved southwards.

They entered and first settled in a place now called Turkana, north of Kenya. In their continued pursuit in search for water, land, and pasture, some of the ITUNGA split off. They left Turkana, moved, and settled in a place called Moroto, now referred to as Karamoja, north-east of Uganda.

The group that remained in Ethiopia were called Nyangatom, while those who settled in Turkana were called the Turkana, while those who settled in Moroto came to be known as the Karamojong. Another split of the ITUNGA took place in Karamoja.

One group left Karamoja, went northwards and settled in the south of the country now called South Sudan. These people came to be known as the Toposa. A second group left Karamoja in 1700 AD and moved southwards and entered a place called Angisa in Magoro, part of a place which later came to be called Teso. The group of ITUNGA who settled in Magoro came to be called Iteso.

From Magoro the Iteso scattered to the north, west and south. The group that went north settled in the current Usuk area (Katakwi district), while the group that went west settled in areas now known as Soroti, Serere, Kalaki and Kaberamaido. Those who went south crossed Lake Bisina and settled in places now called Ngora, Kumi, Bukedea and Pallisa where some proceeded south eastwards to settle in Tororo, Busia and western parts of Kenya.

The sons and descendants of Ham are the people referred to as Hamites. Cush and his descendants moved and settled along the (River) Nile basin and so came to be referred to as ‘Nilo Hamites.’ Thus, Iteso are referred to as part of the ‘Nilo Hamites’ ethnic group.

At the time of settling in the current Teso land, the Iteso were grouped into only six clans, which are referred to as the ‘main clans’ in this directory. This clans are the Ikaribwok, Irarak, Ikatekok, Ikomolo, Igoria and Inomu.

A clan is group of families coming from one man or place as their common ancestor or origin and are governed by cultural norms and taboos. A clan shows people who are relatives. A clan is also the basic cultural administrative unit and building block of the Iteso and the Teso Education Fund. Each clan has a highly revered leader who is their administrative head.

The Iteso clans are the basic and very important cultural administrative units that are the foundation and building blocks of the Teso Education Fund, the institution constitutionally recognized by the Uganda Government as one that culturally binds the Iteso together under their paramount leader, the Emorimor. All services of ICU are administered to the subjects through the clan leaders. ICU derives her powers and authority from the clans.

Source:Iteso Clans Directory – Atekerin Nuka Iteso (First Edition – 14th February 2017)