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Keeping The Tangale Culture and Identity Alive (II), By Iliya Kure

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Having presented the basics and laid foundation in part one of this write up, it is important to start the part (II) by reflecting on the history of the Tangale people and why their culture and identity must be kept alive.


A Brief History of the Tangale People

Internet documents cited in Kalkwi.tripod,, as well as other available corpus reveal that the Tangale people of present-day Nigeria initially migrated from somewhere in the Far East. It is believed that they started their migration from Yemen and came through Egypt and finally arrived in Nigeria through Birnin Ngazargamu, capital of the old Kanem Bornu Empire.

The exact period of migration of the Tangale people from the Far East is not known. However, it is widely suggested by some scholars that it could have been sometime between the 7th and 11th centuries when there was a mass movement of groups of people from the Mediterranean Region through North Africa and the South Sahara Region. Also, it is widely suggested that the period of the arrival of the Tangale people to their present settlement might have been sometime between the 13th and 15th centuries.

One of the British Colonial Officers that wrote a brief account of the Gombe Division referred to the Tangale people as being the first to have occupied the area. Similarly, a German writer, Mr. Wiesbaden vividly disclosed that The Tangale people were the earliest known dominant occupants of the old Gombe Emirate.

The oral account revealed that they had their overall traditional heads known as Mai Yelli (Now Mai Tangle) from the Billiri clan, who other lesser Mais in the land owed allegiance to. Before the advent of the Billiri occupation of Tangale land in 1906, it is believed that these natural rulers of the Tangale kingdom had ruled for about five or six centuries.

There are seven clans in Tangale: Banganje, Kalmai, Nathe, Tal, Tanglang, Tangaltong, and Todi. The area called Tangaltong includes Billiri, Bare, and Kantali. Each clan has kept its own identity and has its chief, who reports to Mai Tangalem Kude (The Big Tangale Chief).

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According to the report of Joshua Usman’s committee page 6, eleven Mai Tangalem Kude ruled the Tangale people before the coming of the Europeans in 1904. These Mai came to the throne in the following successive sequence:


Existing Documentation on Tangale Nation and its Identity

Going by the brief history above, it is clear that the Tangale people have a long and rich history. The fact that the Tangale people have lived in their present location for over 800 years makes it important for them to cherish their history and resist any attempt to abuse, change, or rewrite their history.

Presently, there is no better way to preserve and transmit a peoples’ culture and identity to future generations than to document them through preservative media platforms like books and audio-visual materials, which have the power to keep and retain them in their original forms.

The missionaries who brought the gospel of Jesus Christ into Tangale land took the first step in preserving the language in the 1930’s by translating and publishing the Bible and Hymn books into Tangale language.

Other Tangale sons and daughters have followed the steps of the missionaries to document the culture, history and traditions by publishing books, among them Rev. Samila Kure; Mr. Hussaini Sariel; Mr. Victor Mela Dan’zaria; Prof. Nereus Tadi & Dr. Malata Andrew; Mr. Solomon Lauden Timothy; Mr. Moses Dan’alfa, etc.

Apart from their works, which covers the entire Tangale people, Dr. Danbahaushe Bako of Banganje, has published books specifically on the Banganje clan, including The People of Banganje (highlighting their migration, present location in Tangale and lifestyle) and Genealogy of the People of Banganje (displaying family trees from the 12th century).

Some others, too numerous to mention have produced audio – visual musical works, as well as short movies in Tangale language.

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It is noteworthy effort of the church in Tangale land, in collaboration with The Great Commission Movement, which led to the translation of ‘The Jesus Film’ into Tangale language.

There also exist academic (project & thesis) works by individuals like Mr. A, D. yelyelh, Late Rev. Danjuma Jacob, Mr. Hussaini Sariel and Mr. Bwalin Musa Bakude, among others, who dwelt their works on Tangale people, the Tangale culture, as well as the impact of Missionaries and Christianity in Tangale land.


Preserving and Promoting Tangale Culture and Identity

As a people, Tangale must take additional steps to promote, preserve and protect what has been done already. They must also do more to produce additional works that will help them stamp their feet as a people.

No doubt, a lot of Tangale sons and daughters were born outside their ancestral land, and have not had the privilege of learning the Tangale tongue. Many still live outside the land and are raising their children in diaspora.

Despite these and other challenges, the Tangale as a people can take a number of steps to turn things around and save their culture and preserve their identity.

The Tangale must bear in mind that they are contending with TWO major factors;

  • People who are bent on adulterating the Tangale culture (some are even Tangale sons and daughters)
  • Acculturation

The Bible has made clear the intention of enemies (thieves) in John 10: 10a “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”

Check the actions of the Tangale enemies (those within and external), do their actions align with what the Bible says? If their motive is to steal, kill and destroy, then, you should know what steps you are to take in order to safeguard what you have – it has been given to you by God, not mere human.

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Below are a few practical steps that should help the Tangale people make meaningful progress.

If the people work hard over the next ten (10) years, they will cover a lot of ground, and the enemy (external & internal) will be frustrated the more, knowing they have a long way to go.

  • Every new born child to Tangale family should bear at least one Tangale native name, it could be in addition to any name his/her parents are adopting for their infant.
  • Where possible, parents with children in primary school should have Tangale names added to their children’s formal names.
  • Every Tangale person should endeavour to know how to count at least 1 to 100 in Tangale language, as a basic step.
  • It is not late to learn the Tangale language, no matter how old you are – Rev. Harlin learnt the same language as an adult to the point of accurately translating the Bible and Hymn book into Tangale language.
  • Tangale sons and daughters should strive to teach their children the tongue, no matter how little they themselves speak.
  • Tangale sons and daughters should do their best to learn how to read and write in Tangale language. Currently, a number of people are writing in Tangale on Facebook. It is another way of documenting and keeping the language alive.
  • Tangale Community Development Association (TCDA) and Tangale Community Overseas (TCO) should collaborate and set up a committee that will come up with Tangale names for all object, places, things and concepts lacking Tangale names.
  • The talented should continue to use their God-given talents to produce more books, audio musical albums, movies, podcasts, vlogs, monographs and cartoons in Tangale language.
  • Where possible, teach your children to memorise scriptural verses, prayers, etc in Tangale tongue.
  • The TCDA leadership should make effort to finalise and unveil the Tangale Development Plan.

Kure is a Journalist and can be reached via

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  1. Anonymous says

    Mr. Iliya Kure I admire this great strive and courage. God bless your intentions.

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