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A generation which ignores history has no past and no future – Robert A. Heinlein

A generation which ignores history has no past and no future – Robert A. Heinlein

In observance of our beloved country – Sierra Leone’s 50th anniversary celebration – the Foulah Town Association USA is proud to disseminate from its preserved archives to all and sundry – priceless articles from past distinguished Sierra Leoneans – and also publish a link to the video – The Sierra Leone Story narrated by the late distinguished Alexander Scourby renowned for his landmark recordings of the entire King James Version of the Bible.

The Sierra Leone Story – click on link below and then click on full screen



The Colony Villages of Sierra Leone from the Earliest Time to about 50 Years ago

BY THE LATE A .E. TUBOKU -METZGER, M.A., J.P., (Retired Assistant District Commissioner)

Sierra Leone is a country of villages and it was much more so at the early stage of the establishment of the Colony soon after the abolition of the Slave Trade by the British Government, when those rescued at  sea were continuously  landed in the new Colony and placed in villages which were founded one after the other for the accommodation of the new arrivals.

Those who were brought from Nova Scotia, and the Maroons from various Islands of the West Indies, were located in Freetown. The Nova Scotians were located on the eastern side where they were allotted lands for farming, whilst the Maroons were located on the Western side where they also were allotted farm lands, with Gloucester Street, Freetown as the dividing line between the Nova Scotian Allotments and the Maroon Allotments.

The villages were populated by Liberated African from the Guinea Coast and other parts of Africa. This accounts for almost all the Descendants of Liberated Africans living in Freetown and owning properties therein, having to trace their original homes in some other of the villages.

The social life of village community 40 or 50 years ago and back, may best be described as consisting of three concentric circles:

The First of which was the outermost consisting of the village settlement with its houses, churches and farms as they have continued till now.

The Second circle consisted of a natural tribal division of each village into as many sections as there were different tribes or representatives of different African nations, resident in the village. Take for example, the village of Waterloo as a typical example;one finds within the village circle, Oku Town, Ibo Town, Kraba (Calabar) Town, Congo Town, Aja Town, Kossoh Town, etc., being sections of the village in which members of the different tribes,who clustered together had resided.

Waterloo was the largest of the villages after Freetown, and had more sections than Hastings; York, I believe, followed in size and population, then Kissy and Wilberforce in those days followed in size and population.

Each village section has a society or company of tribe or “nation,” and a system of tribal administration with a recognized headman who put forth claims and made representations to a higher authority of the village for the well-being of the members of this tribe or “nation” resident in the village, among whom he enforced order and discipline.

Each tribe regarded itself as representative of a “nation” and the word  “tribe” was never used. A man was always asked; Of what natin are you?” or “What nation do you belong to?” The reply would be “Oku” or “Kraba.”

It may be here remarked that the people of whom the name “Aku” is applied never call themselves “Aku.” The other tribes (nations) first nicknamed them “Oku” on account of their frequent use of that word which is a form of salutation in their language, and the members of the tribe accepted the nickname and then proceeded to call themselves by that name.

It was the German Missionaries who corrupted (changed) the name to “Aku,” and Dr. Koelle  appeared to be the first to write it so.

The same applies to the word “Kraba” now corrupted (changed) and written as “Calabar”.

The members of the tribe in the Colony called themselves “Kraba”. The members of each “nation” subjected themselves to their headman who settled all disputes and quarrels, and maintained peace and goodwill among them.

Besides the system of tribal administration there was a system of administration  under the control of an organization known as: “THE SEVENTEEN NATIONS.”

This was the third and innermost circle and was the most influential.

This organization was formed by representations of seventeen tribes or nations and appeared to have originated at Waterloo, from seventeen nations resident in the village, and thence copied by other villages, e.g. York, Hastings, Kissy and other places, and in some cases several neighbouring villages combined to form their “SEVENTEEN NATIONS.”

The “SEVENTEEN NATIONS” of Waterloo where the organization was first formed consisted of the following:

1. Oku (Aku) 2.Ibo 3.Popo 4.Moko 5.Hausa 6.Takpa (Nupe) 7.Kakanda 8.Krabar 9.Congo 10.Aja 11. Atam 12.Kossoh (Mende) 13.Soso (Susu) 14.Temne 15.Fula 16.Maninka or Madinga (Mandingo) 17.Lokkoh.

There were a few members of some tribes who united with other kindred tribes in their representation e.g., Kperesheh united with Atam, Sherbro  with Lokko, Limba with Timne, Krankoh (Kurankoh) with Maninka, etc.

Each nation used to meet in association once a month but the “Seventeen Nations” used to meet once a quarter and at such other times as the President decided they should meet for any particular matters.

The Headman of each nation accompanied by two of his counsellors were representatives in the Association of the “Seventeen Nations,” but the Okus (Aku) consisting of several tribes of the nation, and appearing to be larger in number and more aggressive had more representatives than the others; they had two or three “EGBAS” and the and the same number of “OYOS” (Yoruba proper), of Ijesa, Ijebu and Yagba.

Their meeting used to be open to any one to attend and listen to discussion except when in committee. The Headman of every nation and the President of the “Seventeen Nations” were always elected and the election was a life appointment.

Members of the village submitted themselves to this organization, which apart from the Government controlled order and peace an under whose decision and guidance matters affecting the welfare of the village were carried out by the Headman of each nation. Disputes and quarrels which could not be settled by the Headman’s company were brought before the ‘Seventeen Nations,” who assumed the power of fining and even chastising any man or woman of the village who was reported as incorrigible.

It was deemed improper that a member of a nation should go to law with any of the same nation. If the Headman failed to settle a matter, it was referred to the “Seventeen Nations.” Where the matter in dispute was between members of different nations, it was also to be taken to the “Seventeen Nations.”

No matter was taken to law  without the permission of the authorities of this body who would only give it when they failed to settle the matters themselves and members of the village who disregarded  this rule by going to the law were fined.

Members of a village and their families were boycotted and driven out of the village for disregarding the decision of the “Seventeen Nations” which were a very influential power in a village  and men dread the consequence of a breach of its regulation.

It had its village officials and constables. If a farmer complained of being harassed in his farm by thieves a number of watchmen were appointed to watch the farm of the complainant and very often the thief would be traced.

The system of tracing a thief was the same as that adopted by Joshua to discover the theft of  *Achan; investigation was first made according to the different tribes and when it was decided that the thief was a certain tribe the investigation was next directed according to families; a family chosen, the investigation was next directed according to household, then man by man, until the guilty person was found and exposed, disgraced and punished, and the disgrace befell  not only the thief and his family and nation, but restitution of all losses of the complaint were demanded and made,  and cases were known of suicide having been committed by persons in villages to avoid public disgrace by the  “Seventeen Nations.”

Neither the Headmen nor the Tribal Rulers created by Government in later years had the influence or exercise the authority of the village Headman or the “Seventeen Nations” of 50 years ago.

An apprentice who was disobedient to his master, or did not attend his work regularly, and runaways, if brought before the “Seventeen Nations” were chastised for bad behaviour. No stranger would be allowed to remain in a village without someone being responsible for him and guaranteed his behaviour.

There were occasions when deputations from all the villages would meet together and come to Freetown to meet with *King Atakpa for advice and decision on a policy on some Government measures, for the welfare of the village. The organization of the “Seventeen Nations and their influences had begun to wane about some 50 years ago , through the deaths of the Liberated Africans and their number not being replaced by immigration and by a process of homogeneity evolving from intermarriages amongst their descendants. Through smouldering, it still exerted some influence, it had the support of the immigrants from the Protectorate, as the organization was racial and national in its conception.

But  a death -blow was given to it about 28 years ago by the passing of the Headmen Ordinance. This Ordinance took away the the power and the influence of former Headmen. This title gradually became almost useless in some villages as the people feel there is not necessity for it where a Police Constable is stationed.

The sectional names of localities in some of the village have continued to be used, but the tribes or nations that had occupied some of them have entirely disappeared and even well known streets have become bush or empty lots. Not only streets and localities in the larger villages have disappeared, but whole villages or hamlets attached to the larger villages or forming part of them have disappeared, e.g. Leopold, a hamlet between Bathurst and Charlotte, first Calabar Town, second Calabar Town and Kola Tree, between Wellington and Allen Town, but for one or two perishable huts, Devil Hole and Moko Town between Roke and Waterloo, have all disappeared. York seems to be the only village now that pretends of something with the name of “Seventeen Nations” without the influence of the “Seventeen Nation” Association of 40 or 50 years ago, when predial larceny was unknown in the villages, or very rare.

* The Thief of Achanhttp://www.fightingthegiants.com/the-sin-of-achan.htm

*King Atakpa – Encyclopedia of African History and Culture / Conquest to Colonization – 1500-1850 – http://www.ebook3000.com/dictionary/Encyclopedia-of-African-History-and-Culture–vol–1—5_49879.html

Celebrating 50 years of Independence 1961 – 2011

The Foulah Town Association USA
P.O. Box 2258
Merrifield, VA  22116-9998

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