By Oscar Wolfe
When you’re taking the Last Maasai Warriors from Kenya to dinner in Minneapolis, of course you think burgers and fries. After We Day, I had the chance to interview two really great people, Wilson Meikuaya and Jackson Ntirkana, who come from a very traditional culture in Africa where children have to prove their bravery by killing a lion. Wilson and Jackson keep their family traditions going, but have also adapted to the times by getting an education and traveling to the United States and Canada with the We organization to teach people about their culture. They even wrote a book about it.
We met them at the Convention Grill. If you’ve never been, it’s a classic all -American diner since the 1930s. Wilson and Jackson walked in wearing full Maasai warrior outfits—red capes, lots of jewelry, no shirts, and sandals (good thing it wasn’t winter). They studied the menu, and ordered burgers. We added big baskets of fries. They weren’t sure what to drink. Eventually we helped them order their first-ever milkshakes! Once the food and shakes came—one vanilla, one chocolate—Jackson and Wilson watched as we drank ours with a straw. They tried it, and loved them! With the burgers, they just said, “It’s so big!”
When I asked what the weirdest things are about America, they said all the cars, paved roads, and tall buildings. They’ve been to the top of the Empire State building in New York, and my mom asked if they were scared. They laughed and said no—they’re Maasai Warriors, they’ve fought lions!
Then over dinner, we talked about some of their Maasai traditions. Within the first ten minutes with them, I learned more than an entire day of school. Here are some highlights.
Age. The Maasai Warriors don’t know how old they are. They don’t keep track in their culture.
Names. They didn’t get names until they were around 6 years old.
Ready for school. Kids start school when they can reach their arm around their head and touch their ear.
Weapons. They received their first machetes when they were around my brother’s age, 8.
Missing teeth. Wilson and Jackson are both missing the same two bottom front teeth (also just like my little brother!). Their parents pulled out the baby teeth, and then the permanent one when it grew in. “You’re not supposed to cry to show you’re strong,” Wilson says.
Food. The most popular food in Kenya is called Ugali. It looks a little like dough or pita, and you use it to scoop up meat and vegetables.
Drinking blood. They drink blood!!! Jackson says his people believe that drinking cow’s blood will make you very strong.
Pinching. If you don’t behave, your parents pinch you. If you cry, it is a sign that you are weak.
So many siblings. The Maasai have big families. Wilson has 42 brothers and sisters. Jackson has 21. Both are married—they each have one wife. It’s common in their culture for men to have more than one wife, but Wilson and Jackson aren’t sure they want to do that. “When we went to school, we found out having children is so expensive,” Wilson says.
Fighting for education. “We want all girls and boys to be able to go to school,” Wilson says.
Community. “We live all together,” Wilson says. “Whether you help your community locally or globally, that’s where change starts.”
Unity is Strength. That’s a Swahili saying. “Everyone should come and support each other,” Jackson says. “Every person needs the help of others.”
Learn more about We.