By Krystal Garza
Pulse Staff Reporter
Palo Alto College opened its doors to Nelson Lemeria Ole Ngotiek, a Maasai Moran (warrior) and youth leader from Ilaramatak, Narok County, Kenya. Nelson is here on a cultural program to educate both PAC and the local community on Maasai culture and heritage.
The Maasai are usually associated with Kenya, but they also had a presence in Tanzania for the last 100 years. The Maasai are primarily recognized as a warrior tribe known for herding cattle and for wearing red garments called a Shula.
Nelson wants everyone to know that the Maasai are just like us. Beneath the beautiful colored clothes and intricate beaded jewelry is a person.
“The Maasai are moving with time. Modernization is coming in. We are coming together with all things,” he said.
Nelson has a passion for music that began at a young age. He began his musical journey and training at Ole Sankale Primary School and later attended Limanet Primary School. Nelson is involved with the Narok County Choir, the crowned champions in the East Africa Games. Currently Nelson teaches music and trains youth of the Ilmakesen clan.
The Maasai people caught up with the 21st century, yet the world seems to have a generalized idea about who the Maasai people are.
“There’s a lot of mythology about the Maasai,” said Dr. Alba De Leon, program adviser and Art professor at PAC.
For example, everybody thinks that all the Maasai are tall people, and they are all runners. They do run, but not everybody is tall. Some Maasai are average size.
The Massai are no longer lion hunters. The lion and Massai have a mutual respect for each other. Nelson described some footage of the Maasai and a lion and how neither one attacks the other.
“The man is holding the spear, but he never goes for the lion and the lion never goes for the man,” said Nelson.
The relationship between animal and man is thought to be complex, but according to Nelson, “If you threaten the animal, he will come to you. But if you leave him alone, he has no business with you.”
Having Nelson at Palo Alto College provides students the opportunity to see the world in a new way.
“It’s important for campuses to invite international cultural ambassadors like Nelson so that students get to interact, and speak and talk with somebody who is different, yet the same,” said De Leon.
Maasai culture runs deep within the tribe, and its people are driven by their history and traditions. That’s what Nelson wants to teach us. He wants the Palo Alto community to have a better understanding of the real Maasai.