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The Igbos, also called Ibos are people living chiefly in southeastern Nigeria who speak Igbo, a language of the Benue-Congo branch of the Niger-Congo language family. The Igbo may be grouped into the following main cultural divisions: northern (Onitsha), southern (Owerri), western (Ika), eastern (Cross River), and northeastern (Abakaliki). The Igbos are surrounded on all sides by other tribes (the Bini, Warri, Ijaw, Ogoni, Igala, Tiv, Yako and Ibibio). Before European colonization, the Igbos were not united as a single people but lived in autonomous local communities. By the mid-20th century, however, a sense of ethnic identity was strongly developed, and the Igbo- dominated Eastern region of Nigeria tried to unilaterally secede from Nigeria in 1967 as the independent nation of Biafra. By the turn of the 21st century the Igbos numbered over 20 million. The origin of the Igbo people has been the subject of much speculation, and it is only in the last fifty years that any real work has been carried out in this subject. Like any group of people, they are anxious to discover their origin and reconstruct how they came to be how they are. Analysis of the available sources which are basically fragmentary oral traditions and correlation of cultural traits have led to the belief that there exists a core area of Igboland. Possibly waves of immigrant communities from the north and west planted themselves on the border of this core area as early as the 9th century. This core area – Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe – forms a belt. The people in this area have no tradition of coming from anywhere else. Migration from this area in the recent past inclined to be in all directions, and in this way the Igbo culture gradually became homogenized. Also, other people entered the Igbo territory in about the 14th or 15th centuries who still exhibit different characteristics from that of the traditional Igbos – for example geographical marginality, the institution of kingship, a hierarchical title system and the amosu tradition (witchcraft). Igbo-speaking people for some time claimed that they were not Igbos arising from the word igbo being used as a term of abuse for “less cultured” neighbors. The word is now used in three senses viz. to describe Igbo territory, domestic speakers of the language and the language spoken by the igbo people. Most Igbo traditionally have been subsistence farmers. The staple food of the igbos are yams, cassava and taro. They also grow corn (maize), melons, okra, pumpkins, and beans. Among those still engaged in agriculture, men are chiefly responsible for yam cultivation, women for other crops. Land is usually owned communally by kinship groups and was made available to individuals for farming and building. Presently, land is sold for cash by families. Palm oil and palm kernels are the principal exports. also are in The Igbo economy significant promotes trading, local crafts, and wage labor and a high literacy rate has helped many Igbos to become civil servants and business entrepreneurs in the decades after Nigeria gained independence. It is notable that Igbo women engage in trade and are influential in local politics. Except for the northeastern groups, the Igbo live in rainforest country. Most Igbos occupy villages of dispersed compounds, but in some areas villages are compact. The compound used to be typically a cluster of huts, each of which constitutes a separate household which have now given way to block houses. Traditionally the village was usually occupied by a lineal descent traced through the male line (Patrilineage). Before the advent of colonial administration, the largest political unit was the village group, a federation of villages averaging about 5,000 persons. Members of the group shared a common market and meeting place, a tutelary deity, and ancestral cults that supported a tradition of descent from a common ancestor or group of ancestors. The authority in the village group was vested in a council of lineage heads and influential, wealthy men. In the eastern regions these groups tended to form larger political units, including centralized kingdoms and states. The first contact between Igboland and Europe came in the mid-fifteenth century with the arrival of the Portuguese. From 1434-1807 the Niger coast acted as a contact point between African and European traders, beginning with the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the English. At this stage there was an emphasis on trade rather than empire building, in this case the trade consisting primarily of Igbo slaves. The abolition of the slave trade in 1807 emanated a new trading era in palm products, timber, elephant tusks and spices. The British then began to combine aggressive trading with aggressive imperialism. They saw the hinterland as productive, and refused to be confined to the coast. In 1900 the area that had been administered by the British Niger Company became the Protectorate on Southern Nigeria, also incorporating what had been called the Niger Coast Protectorate. Control of this area then passed from the British Foreign Office to the Colonial Office. Long before it had officially been conquered, Igboland was being treated as a British colony. Between 1900 and the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria in 1914, there had been 21 British military expeditions into Igboland. Igbo men began paying tax in 1928 when they became a subject people. This attempt to take over political control of Igboland met with resistance and cultural protest in the early decades of the 20th century. A nativistic religious movement sprang up (the ekumeku) which inspired short-lived but feverish messianic enthusiasm. The rumors that the Igbo women were being assessed for taxation, sparked off the 1929 Aba Riots, a massive revolt of women never encountered before in Igbo history. However, the engine of imperialism could not be stopped, and once it had begun, Igbo culture would never be the same again Traditional Igbo religion includes belief in a creator god, an earth goddess, and numerous other deities and spirits, as well as a belief in ancestors who protect their living descendants. Revelation of the will of the deities is sought by divination and oracles. Many Igbo are now Christians. Sources include: Encyclopedia Britannica, The Igbo People - Origins & History by Katharine Slattery.
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