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The Gio or Dan people is an ethnic group in north-eastern Liberiamarker and in Côte d'Ivoiremarker.

History

According to tradition, the Gio and other Mande-speaking peoples migrated from East Africa to the present-day Malimarker and Guineamarker several hundred years ago and then into their current locations in Liberiamarker and the Ivory Coastmarker, invading the coastal region, replacing some of the Atlantic tribes and pushing back the Kru.

Some of their chief warriors were: Grougbay Zobaneeay who fought and pushed the tribes that once live in the present day Nimba Countymarker, to as far as Loguatuo in Côte d'Ivoire. Also, there were those like Kipko Toh'ah-Gbeu who drove the Kru men from what is now called Tapitah, Nimba County (prior to the arrival of Chief Tapeh); his last major war with the settlers was in Sanniquelliemarker. He retired when he got wounded in the Sanniquellie war. Kipho gave his daughter Lhe'kpahseu in marriage to Grougbay Zobaneeay. Bho'Yaah, who lived in today's Garplay, Nimba County- in an alliance with Kipho Toh'Gbeu, made a truce to quit fighting the settlers. He was actually one of the last chief warriors of the Gios to have resisted the Americo-Liberian military push into Nimba. Gonsahn Ghe'Gbeu was from Miampleu Yeezleu, Nimba County, and who also drove the Kphelehs from Eastern Liberia, but lived and died in the early 1900s.

After Liberia became a nation in 1847, the new government in Monroviamarker began pacifying these warring peoples. By the early 1900s, peace had been achieved, and administrative controls had been established.

Economy

The Gio are primarily farmers, annually clearing the forest land to grow their crops. They cultivate staple crops such as rice, cassava, and sweet potatoes. They also grow cash crops such as cocoa, coffee, and rubber. Women are given a small plot of ground on which to grow their own vegetables to use in the households or to sell in the market. Greens are gathered from domestic and wild plants in the forest. Palm oil is extracted from the many wild palm oil trees and then used for such things as fuel and cooking.Gio men do most of the agricultural work, but women help with the harvesting and weeding. Men also do all of the hunting and most of the fishing, while women tend to such domestic duties as caring for the children and preparing the meals. Children help by chasing wild animals and birds away from the crops. The Gio also raise livestock such as cattle, sheep, and goats. These animals are eaten only on special ritual occasions involving much feasting.

Culture

The Gio language is a Mande language. The Gio are primarily farmers with knowledge of clear-cutting agriculture. Like other peoples of the Atlantic, they grow rice, cassava and yams and they also have a love of palm oil. The Gio also raise livestock. They also have the Mande fraternal societies among separate male and female groups.

Government

Gio villages are divided into quarters, each housing an extended family or lineage. Each quarter is headed by a "quarter chief," who is chosen either for being the oldest male in the family or for having the most aggressive personality. Although the village or town chief administers authority over the whole village, the real power comes from the council of elders who assist the chief in all decisions. Honorary chief titles can be given to non-tribe members who have assisted the tribe in charitable means. For example, U.S. Diplomat, John F. Moss (working for VOA), was bestowed by a Gio tribe in Liberia as an honorary chief after he commissioned a bulldozer to help them build a road through the jungle.



Housing

Traditional Gio huts were small, single-room dwellings made of mud and thatch. Each wife of a man had her own hut where her children lived until they were old enough to move out. Today, houses are large and rectangular and have several rooms. Instead of living in separate houses, multiple wives live in different rooms in the same house with their husband.



Manhood

Gio men have their own "secret society," which marks their initiation into manhood and guides them throughout their lives. The men's society is controlled by the elders and acts as a source of power for the community. Boys initiated into the society are prepared to encounter the mysteries of the spirit world and to learn the rules of adult Gio men. Women, too, have a similar society.

Beliefs

The Gio believe in a supreme god who created the universe and everything in it. They do not believe that man can reach this god; thus, they do not worship him. Instead, a spiritual power called Du acts as mediator between the people and the supreme god. Du is said to really be the spirit located in each person. The Gio believe in reincarnation, in which the Du, or spirit, of a person can pass into another person or even an animal after death.


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