Ethnographie Nordost-Afrikas

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Naturally not all the mature men of the individual families participated in the government but the majority of those who had the inclination or ability. . . . In every family containing a son there was always the possibility that the father, the husband or brother of his wife, or male relatives of the wife of the son would have been active on the government before the expiration of forty years. . . . The gada-butta—this combined conception— . . . could be employed also in dating events in the narrow circle of the family, such as births and deaths, and has preserved this trait down to the present. The Oromo mothers universally refer to the birth of their children on this basis, for example, Roba was born in the fourth year of the butta of my father, brother, husband, etc.

It is evident that this system disseminates and confirms a general interest in the affairs of state and is an expression of fundamental republican principles. It is an original contribution of African statecraft. But in order to keep alive the interest in the state, especially among the citizens whose butta was completed, another feature was introduced by which special grades of honor were conferred with advancing years—honorary political rank without active political functions.

The retirement of the representatives of the gada to private life has both solemn and noisy features. At the time of the great retirement assembly they withdraw to tents on the border of the forest. The new representatives now declare before the assembly that the existing laws are no longer in force. The people receive this announcement with resentment and tumult. The new officials are now sent to ask advice of the old ones. These refuse at first, as prearranged, to take any part in the matter, but relent when a sacrificial offering is sent, and the people greet this with noisy approval. The new officials then solemnly declare that the old laws will remain in force, and the assembly receives the announcement with wild expressions of joy.1

1Paulitsche, P.n/an/an/an/an/a, , 2: 114–116, passim.

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Chicago: Ethnographie Nordost-Afrikas in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed September 22, 2023,

MLA: . Ethnographie Nordost-Afrikas, Vol. 2, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 22 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , Ethnographie Nordost-Afrikas. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 September 2023, from