Former hunter-gatherers and beekeepers, the Yaaku people were assimilated by their neighbours Maasai people who practiced pastoralist culture. The Yaaku people, of Kenya’s Rift Valley, number only around 4,000. And only seven people, who 70 years of age can speak the ethnic group’s native language Yakunte, fluently.
The seven people in the Kenya who speak Yakunte language are now they are trying to save it.
The Yaaku are believed to have migrated from Ethiopia to Kenya, where they settled in the Mukogodo forest, west of Mount Kenya, more than 100 years ago. The name “Mukogodo” is a yakunte language term meaning people who live in rocks. Yaaku people have been believed to be living in rocks and caves.
The Yaaku people, derived their name Yaaku “hunting people” from their hunting lifestyle. They also whose name means “hunting people,” kept bees and began trading with the Maasai, the country’s largest pastoral people. They were assimilated into the dominant pastoralist tribe of the Maasai in the 1920’s. They are known for their bee keeping, hunting and gathering. Eventually the Yaaku assimilated into Masai culture, adopting the Masai tongue over their own Cushitic language.
Today the Yaaku are often considered a subgroup of the Masai and are not officially recognized as one of Kenya’s 42 ethnic groups. Yakunte is one of six languages in Kenya that have been classified as extinct by UNESCO.
As the number of Yakunte speakers has dwindled, various efforts have been made to save the language.