What People don’t Know About Tiv People: Their Origin and Culture.

What You should Know about Tiv People, Their Origin, Their Culture, and Tradition.

Once upon a time on a hilly place in South Africa. There lived an influential man who was called Takuruku, married to Aliwe and had many children. The last of whom he named Tiv, translated means” my own” in Bantu language.

Takuruku loved Tiv more than his many sons because Tiv was hardworking and had great love
for his parents and as the child of his dotage.

As the family multiplied in numbers, frequent family squabble arose and Tiv who was cool headed left home ( twev) to Congo on Takuruku’s demise.


Tiv married Ayaaya with four children, three sons and a daughter Gbe (first) , Ichongo (second) and Ipusu ( third ) and Anadenden (daughter).

Gbe left home shortly on their arrival in the Congo to find a new homestead and never returned and Tiv was left with Ipusu and Ichongo
working as brothers.

To this present day, the Tiv tribe would share anything even meat and a piece is thrown to the ground with the words ” de mvande nan Gbe”.

Same is done with drinks before others can drink keeping with the tradition the eldest must first be given the share of anything.

Tiv passed away leaving Aya ( wife ) as the children fondly called her and his two sons, Ipusu and Ichongo, with their families who were outstanding members of the community to the chargrind of thier host who then hatched a plot to attack and annihilate the entire Tiv family.

Information was leaked as fate would have it and the Tiv family fled but on reaching Congo River got stranded not knowing how to get across and escape their enemies.

A mysterious snake the ” Ikyalem” a green snake, sacred to the Tiv tribe to this day appeared and spread itself across the River for the Tiv people to cross over the river Congo to safety until they got to the mountains straddling the border between Nigeria and Cameron.
It is a taboo to kill the Ikyalem ( green snake ) and when a Tiv man comes across a dead Ikyalem he would pour sand over it to symbolize burial rite.


Their first settlement.


Tiv migrated from Congo through various places and eventually reached the Benue Valley, from the east over the Cameroon mountains in the area called Swem and settled in the South Eastern region of the border between Nigeria and Cameron.

The Tiv tribe settled in Swem many years and were greatly blessed with fertile land, animals for hunting, clean water, no disease but had to migrate to the heart of the Benue Valley.

Tiv had to vacate Swem when the tribe was domiciled at Swem abode they designated a place of worship and sacrifice known as “Ilyum” a rock that had two jutting angles.

Around this “Ilyum” rock was planted Ayande a Lean stemmed vegetable plant with large leaves, the Ilyum was considered sacred and protected the Tiv from evil influences, diseases and their enemies.

The Ilyum was polluted by Karagbe family of Nongov clan, when the patriach of the family took the dead body of his daughter and laid it on the Ilyum rock demanding that the gods should avenge the death of his child, whom according to him was caused by the entire tribe.

As a result of this sacrilege, the Kwaragbe family was cursed but it also ment that the Tiv tribe had to move away from the Swem homeland for fear of the retributions that mayfollow the desecration of the Ilyum rock.

Between 1500AD and 1600AD due to the hostilities from the bush tribes “Ugenyi” the Tiv moved out of Swen into Ikyurav in present day Kwande LGA, from the point they occupied the Benue Valley through conquest by pushing into various directions of other setteler tribes.

Their first meeting with Fulani.


After the invasion, Tiv moved first across River Kastina-Ala and dispersed spreading out, and it was the process of “coming down” that they met the Fulani with whom they lived for a time with symbiosis and parted peacefully.

The Tiv would not allow their daughters to marry the Fulani tribe because when there give birth that child would be more of Fulani descent so the Tiv elders decided to move on in search of another homestead (twev) .

Tiv were careful not to separate from the Fulani under any form of
antagonism so they informed the Fulani of their move and so the Fulani though were not pleased.

Tiv leaving but as a sign of good faith the Fulani gave the Tiv some Cows ostensibly so that Tiv would learn how to keep cows too. The Tiv duely collected these cows and moved on but they lacked the patience and skill of the Fulani in rearing cattle so they slaughtered the cows and ate them.

The Fulani who was nomads again met with the Tiv when they did not see the cows sought to know what had happened to the cows asked, the Tiv constrained by language barriers in the language of the Fulani simply replied “M chii”(I have eaten them).

This answer greatly amusedt Fulani and they began calling the Tiv people “MUNCHI” to this present day Shortly after the Tiv tribe had reached the Benue valley and settled down they noticed an influx of ATOATIEV(other tribes),  who came and  settled around placing Tiv in a vulnerable position in the middle and the (atoatiev)were armed withmenacing weapons.


Their first encounter with other tribes.


These Atoatiev (other tribes) were IDOMA, IGEDE, UDAM and ALAGO. They had been part of the Jukun Kwararafa Empire, their affiliation with the Jukun tribe whether related or slaves is not clearly known.

Eventually the Borno Empire declared war on the Kwararafa Empire and killed the Jukun King (Angyu)which led to the Atoatiev fleeing to different directions and encamped in the Benue Valley around the Tiv.

Tiv where worried one day these Atoatiev(other tribe) would declear war on them and cart away with their women and son’s as slaves so the Tiv decided to take the war to them.


The Tiv secretly fashioned weapons like arrows and spears in preparation for war,when satisfied with enough arms the Indyer was sounded to summon the entire Tiv tribe for strategies to go to war against the Atoatiev since the Atoatiev were so many, without strategy they will bedefeated.

Every clan was to attacks the Atoatiev closest to them., Jechira was to face Udam, Masev had to contend with the Idoma while Ihyarev attacked the Alago. A war song was also fashioned which is still sang to this present day.



Mnyam chier m er uke mile
o o uke mille
Mnyam MA chier m er uke mile
o o uke mile
Ishima yam ngi awambe! awambe!
o o awambe! awambe!!

On the appointed day, Tiv picked up the chorus of this war song and launched a surprise attack on the Atoatiev on all fronts, they fled in great fear before the Tiv warriors.

Jechira pursued the Udam and Igede until they took refuge in the forest, this is why Kunav, Gaav n Shangev tiev are located where they are now. Masev fought with Idoma who reiterated until they came up into Igala and Igbo territory with no place to run to they stood their ground to hold their present position.

Ihyarev pursued the Alago until they
crossed the River Benue.
That is why Tiv are where they are today.



Mkohol Aondona Kenneth is a political science student of Benue State University Makurdi. He is from Konshisha LGA of Benue State,

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