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Gumuz

Gumuz (also spelled Gumaz) is an ethnic group living in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region and the Qwara woreda of Ethiopia, as well as the Fazogli region of Sudan; they number about 200,000. In the past, they have been lumped with other peoples living along the Sudanese-Ethiopian border under the name of Shanqella (Pankhurst 1977). As Shanquella, they are already mentioned by Scottish explorer James Bruce in his Travels to discover the source of the Nile, published in 1790. He notes that they hunt with bows and arrows, a custom that survives today.

Their language is called Gumuz, which is classified as a Nilo-Saharan language (Bender 1979) and is subdivided in several dialects (Ahland 2004, Unseth 1985). Most members of this group live in a bush-savanna lowland environment. According to their traditions, in earlier times they inhabited the western parts of the province of Gojjam, but they were progressively banished to the inhospitable area of the Blue Nile and its tributaries by their more powerful neighbors -the Amhara and Agaw- who also enslaved them (Wolde-Selassie Abbute 2004). Slavery did not disappear in Ethiopia until the 1940s. Descendants of Gumuz people taken as slaves to the area just south of Welkite were found to still be speaking the language in 1984 (Unseth 1985).