Nuer Narratives History:
Archeologists indicate that the introduction of cattle in this area is related to the development of the distinct peoples the Nuer are descended from. Oral traditions indicate that the Nuer have moved east of the Nile River only during the last 200 years.
They began an especially active migration about the mid 1800s. As they moved gradually east, they pushed the Anuak farther east into Ethiopia. During this period many Dinka people were incorporated into the Nuer community. Atuot and Nuer traditions indicate origins with the Dinka in what is now known as Western Nuerland. These traditions say the separation of the three occurred due to a dispute over cattle ownership.
Like many of his pastoral neighbors, a Nuer man’s dearest possession is his cattle. Life depends on cattle and a Nuer will risk his life to defend them or to raid his neighbor’s cattle. The Nuer worldview is built around the herds and prestige is measured by the quantity and quality of the cattle a man owns.
Men and women take the names of their favorite oxen or cows and prefer to be greeted by their cattle names. While they do engage in agricultural pursuits, the care of cattle is the only labor they enjoy. It is said that conversation on virtually any subject will inevitably involve a discussion of cattle.
The Nuer, a tall and very dark people, are related to the Dinka, who live to their west, and their culture is very similar. The Nuer call themselves Naath, meaning “human beings.” The Nuer, Dinka and Atwot (Atuot) are sometimes considered one ethnic group.
The Nuer language is a Nilotic language closely related to the speech of the Dinka and Atwot. The language is uniform with no definable dialects.