The Traditions of Origin of (Ivbimion)Evbo-mion People

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Last up date (October 3, 2018)

Obo masquerade from Arokho
The community of Evbo-Mion, as defined by the British and maintained after independence, consists of six village groups. They include Arokho with eight wards, Ikhin with eleven, Urole (Uruore), Oham, and Iru-oke with three each; Ake is a group of four villages divided into eleven wards. The narrative tradition of Evbo-Mion focuses exclusively upon each settlement; since it does not form a community. This region forms an area of acephalous village organization, each village being independence of the others. Evbo-Mion has been placed in the northern tier of Owan communities on the flimsiest of evidence, merely because it contains a minority of animal totems. Since Evbo-Mion was a colonial creation, it seems more logical to look at its constituent villages. For example, the statistics clearly place Ake within the northern
tier of communities and Arokho-lkhín within the central. Ake, with 91% of ¡ts totems being plants and snakes, becomes the most typically northern of all communities, where the average is 71%; the second highest is the Igue community with 82%. Arokho-lkhin with 70% animals and no totems sits close to the average of 71% for the central tier communities.

Arokho and lkhin have a tradition of common origin. In detail the tradition states that Arokho and Ikhin were full brothers and Sons of the oba of Benin. Ikhin was very proud and took the nickname “Epen-Oga,” meaning “the leopard shall be served.”° If this means he was of the leopard clan, he left no record of it. In the Ikhin village group, there is no group totem, no village totem among the three villages, and only one leopard among the wards. But according to the ward tradition, the founder had been Ule, thus Amule, “Ule’s ward.” lf Ikhin was not of the leopard, then no other totem appears to derive from hím either. He was driven out of Benin because of his unruly behavior. His brother Arokho went with him. They travelled towards Ifon. While lkhin settled in Ifon, Arokho pitched his camp in Ukaro. Ikhin started to sell the Ifon people into slavery. As a result he was driven again from Ifon. He relocated in Urumolele in luleha community. Arokho later felt compelled to look for Ikhin, whom he found in Urumolele. They both decided to move to their present locations. The Arokho-Ikhin genealogical calculation places the possible date of the establishment of the two settlement at ca. 1632—1664. The claim that Arokho and ¡khin descended from two brothers who were princes from Benin is possible because there is one Leopard ward in Arokho and another in Ikhin, if one keeps in mind the reservations noted above. Given the long sojourn of the two brothers outside of the area today associated with Owan, it is suggested that a large percentage of the totems in Arokho-Ikhin are found nowhere else and a particularly large number of place names have no meaning. Recalling that overall about one third of the place names in Owan cannot be translated, the percentage in Arokho-Ikhin reaches 63% or the highest in Owan.72 In addition, among the ten different totems in Arokho-Ikhin, six were unique—plus the illusive rabbit which is ubiquitous but seems to stem from non-Edo origins.

The Ake village group does not figure in the Arokho-Ikhin tradition. Apparently Ake was founded originally as part of the Uokha community. The Ake dialect is closer to that of Uokha than those of any other community. Moreover, the political totems of Ake include the boa and bean (ihie), the same as Uokha except that the bead has been dropped. It also seems that members of both the Rabbit and Bushbuck clans left Uokha to settle in Ake and created two wards. Those clans founded the Ake village of Okhuara with two wards, one Rabbit and one Bushbuck. The second village, Oguamo, was also founded from Uokha. As is common in Uokha, the founding ward of Oguamo too adopted no unique totem, probably being biologically of the Boa and Bean, the political totems of Ake. Finally, Ake adopted the same community shrine names—Oron and Oisa—as in Uokha. Thus, there is ample totemic and shrine evidence to confirm that Ake was once part of the Uokha community. The narrative tradition recorded by Marshall authenticates this contention too. Tradition has it that Ake was the wife of a Bini called Iyewa. Ake and ¡yewa fled Benin because their son had committed adultery with a wife of the oba. After fleeing Benin, they first settled in Uokha. However, during my fieldwork informants denied being part of Uokha in the past. This is understandable in that current political relations do not make for the acceptance of subordination of one group to another. Narrative tradition in the Otuo community claims that Otuo indigenes gave permission to the Ake people to settle where they did. Again Ake informants denied this assertion. Since the third village, Ewara, was founded by a fish clan (the same as in Otuo), the Otuo claim also seems valid. While Otuo-Ake relations cannot be reduced to mere permission to settle, evidence suggests there must have existed some pre-colonial interaction, such as kinship relations which have been forgotten over time. It may well have been an explanation for the settlement of Otuo migrants in Ake in the distant past. In Ake award reveres ehe (a type of fish). In all of Owan, fish clans are confined to Otuo where six quarters revere fish and one village has a fish as its political totem. This fish connection might point to a relationship in the distant past.

In the nineteenth century Ake formed a defensive alliance with the other Evbo-Mion village groups (with the exception of Iruoke) against the Nupe ¡invaders from the north. As a result of this alliance, intermigration and intermarriage occurred. The consequence was a dog totem probably from Ikhín, which founded the third village (Oguedo) in Ake. Three tree wards were added to the second village (Oguarno) by settlers from Arokho and Ikhin. In the first village (Okhuara), two tree and one bird ward were added by the new settlers. The new wards were unlikely to have come from anywhere else because tree totems existed nowhere else in Owan. Tree totems flourished in Ake, there being seven of them. The bird ward—Udomoriri---must have come from other Evbo-Mion settlements, especially Oare in Ikhin because the same bird is revered in both places.

Despite the infusion of new settler’s into Ake from other Evbo-Mion communities and to a lesser extent from Otuo, the village group maintained a balance among the totems which resembled those in Uokha. In both Ake and Uokha, plant totems remained the largest group. Clearly, it is significant that as many as seven plant totems moved out of other Evbo-Mion settlements where they were a minority, to Ake where they continue to be a majority. Probably the migration did not flow in only one direction—that is, towards Ake. In Arokho and lkhin, three wards contained boa totems, never alone but always in combination with others. In addition, one ward in Arokho (the first village of Evbo-Mion), which revered the boa among others, had a shrine name which was the same as one shrine in Ake and one in Uokha. If Ake is removed from Evbo-Mion and grouped with Uokha, the totemic balance between animals, snakes, and plants would not change in Uokha. The balance would change in Evbo-Mion, placing than community with those in the central region, where animals dominate.

Consequently, we see in Ake a tendency coward the separation of plant totems from animals. This division had shown up elsewhere, particularly in the exodus of plant totem clans from Ora to Otuo, the “abomination” tradition from Ozalla as a result of intermarriage between the two groups, and the migration of the animal totems out of plant-dominated Uokha to luleha. The prejudice between the two groups did not at any point break into actual conflict and therefore has left no narrative record. But the grouping of clans and their inter-Owan migrations is evident in the traditions and present distribution of totems. The wars against the Nupe in the nineteenth century were overpowering enough than internal prejudices were suppressed and Ake (primarily plants and snakes) felt sufficiency comfortable to ally with the animal totemic groups in the other villages of Evbo-Mion.

When the British arrived in the 1900’s and set up their administration, they sought, as was their custom, to group into units people historically related. The Ake people opted to be grouped with Evbo-Mion because of their anti-Nupe military alliance established in the nineteenth century. The alliance alone was not enough. The migration of peoples during that alliance guaranteed that of the eleven wards of Ake, seven had been founded from other villages in Evbo-Mion. The fact that Ake had been named after a woman and one of its community shrines was dedicated to the goddess Oron confirmed the earlier importance of females in the society, a factor more typical of the northern than of the central tier of communities in Owan. It seems highly significant than the woman Ake and her husband Iyewa, who fled from Benin, left behind a village group named after the woman. In Owan most communities take their founding ancestor as a man. Often his wife’s name is not recalled. Others become named from a man whose wife’s name is remembered. Only Ake, Eme-Ora, Ivbiaro, and the major rivers are named after female figures. The prominence of females as founders and goddesses generally increases as the plant-snake totems form larger percentages in a community. Animal totems and the royal house of Benin were clearly hostile to the public role of women in politics.

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