The Kusasi People
The Kusasi people are found in the Bawku Districts which are inhabited by a mixture of peoples including the Kusasi themselves who are more or less the autochthonous people, Mamprusi who come over from across the White Volta in Mamprugu in the era preceding the colonization of the area and other minority groups like the Bisa or Busasi, Moshie, Moshie, Fulani and Bimoba communities. Kusasi and their neighbours who live in their midst have not been very good in recent times. It appears control of Bawku and the paramountcy located there has been the issue responsible for the sour relations and the ethnic distrust. This is in spite of the fact that for many decades the various ethnic groups have maintained good relations and ethnic intermarriages mediated by a substantial bridewealth settlement have been characteristic of the area.
The Kusasiland is divided culturally into two divisions – the western or Atoende division which lies to the west of the Red Volta the Agolle division to the east. Though Kasasi constitute a fair homogenous cultural and linguistic group, there are perceptible cultural and linguistic differences between Agolle Kusasi and Atoende Kasasi. For one thing the Atoende seem to have been more influenced by their neighbours to the west – the Nabdem.
Kusasi chiefdoms seem to be fairly recent and in the majority of cases in both Atoende and Agolle the king of Mamprugu, the Nayiri, has had a role to play in the installation of chiefs. The paramountcy of Bawku which used to be claimed by the Mamprusi is now held by Kusasi. Control has changed several times between Mamprusi and Kusasi since the time of Independence. The Kusasi are in the majority in the area. However, like most other people there are accounts that suggest that migrant groups have also overtime integrated and have come to assume Kusasi identity.
The cult of the earth and the role of earthpriests go further back in time. Kusasi traditional religion like that of other neighbouring peoples recognizes the role of the ancestors and local divinities represented by material objects like rivers, hills and forest groves in the lives of the people. Household heads have an obligation to make periodic sacrifices to the ancestors and the local gods for the prosperity of their dependents. They have traditionally celebrated the Samapiid festival in commemoration of their ancestors and for expression of gratitude to the gods for a successful year and the harvest. Today Islam and Christianity have a role in Kusasiland.
The multi-ethnic town of Bawku is easily the largest commercial town in the Upper East. Its growth has been in response to its commercial role and its attraction of traders and merchandise from Burkina Faso, Togo and beyond. Its specialities include kolanuts form Southern Ghana destined for Burkina Faso, livestock, onions and other local produce.
The Bulsa People
The Bulsa people, also known erroneously in much of Ghana as the Kanjaga, are to be found in the Sandema District of the Upper East Region. Sandema is the main town in the area and the seat of the paramountcy. Bulsa are similar in many ways to the other peoples of the Region with whom they share borders, like the Kasena and Nankana people, and with whom intermarriages have been a common feature. The Buli language and the Konni language spoken to the south of Buli are both Oti-Volta languages, albeit, in the view of the comparative linguists, perhaps a little distinct from the majority of Oti-Volta languages spoken in Ghana. Buli, once mistakenly classified as a Grusi language, shares some linguistic features with its non-Oti-Volta neighbour, Kasem which lies to the north of Buli. Clearly these result from borrowing. The two groups have intermarried to a considerable extent. The traditional Bulsa person had facial markers.
The Bulsa people live in several chiefdoms which though related historically, were at one time autonomous of each other. Today, the paramountcy is at Sandema and the other chiefdoms seem to be ranked loosely and based on ancestral legends which now serve as a kind of charter. Chiefs coexist with the tenyono or earthpriests. Each Bulsa chiefdom is divided into clan-elements which are exogamous kin-groups. These perform joint rituals and in the past acted in a corporate fashion.
Like other Upper Easterners the Bulsa are cultivators growing grains and legumes on compound farms and keeping livestock and poultry. Compound homesteads are per force dispersed as elsewhere in the Upper West. Unlike their neighbours, marriages here do not depend much on bridewealth which is comparatively of lower value. Marriages are generally perceived to be less stable. Fathers nevertheless get to claim their children and the society can be described as patrilineal.
Everywhere the typical mud thatched hut serves as a dwelling unit. Grass thatched conical buildings are not common as places for human habitation.
The Speakers of Grusi Languages
The Grusi languages include the following:
Kasem (spoken around Navrongo, Paga, Chiana and a number of smaller chiefdoms in the Upper East as well as in some villages of the Tumu District). This is one of the few languages that receive official sponsorship by the Government of Ghana.
Sissala (spoken in the Tumu District).
Chakali (its native communities lie to east end of the Wa district; the language is almost dying out),
Tampilma, (spoken in a 60 km. stretching from north to south along the eastern border of the Mole Game Reserve. Its communities can be found near Daboya as well as in an enclave midway between Walewale and Gambaga in the Gambaga district of the Northern Region,
Vagla is spoken in the Bole district of the Northern Region,
Deg (also known as Mo) is spoken by a group of people whose communities are located close to the Black Volta in the Brong Ahafo and Northern Regions. Kintampo and Bamboi-Longoro are some of their main towns.
The Dilo and Chala languages in the Nkwanta district of the Volta Region.
Though there is no common ethnonym for these people collectively, they may be referred to as the Grusi people. The Kasena are generally known throughout Ghana by this term, although they do not themselves use it for their ethnic group. When they do, it carries a negative connotation. Occasionally other peoples like the Sisala may answer to the term. There are legends and myths that link some of the Grusi peoples, such as the Sisala, Mo and Vagala, though a pan-Grusi identity is lacking. The wide geographical distribution of the Grusi people (from middle portions of Burkina Faso to the lower Black Volta and Brong Ahafo amounts to a dispersal, though it is difficult to identify the original home of the these languages that are spoken not only in Ghana but also in Burkina Faso and Togo.
The people and communities that speak the Grusi languages people are not necessarily culturally homogeneous or similar to each other. The Grusi languages are not as numerous as those of Oti-Volta and their communities are not generally as populous as those of their neighbours, the speakers of Oti-Volta or Mabia languages. Their territories also do not seem to constitute a contiguous block, rather they are separated by other linguistic groups or uninhabited lands or live in the midst of other communities. Groups like the Vagla and Chakali live in communities that acknowledge Gonja overrule and usually have a resident Gonja Chief living among them.