Though referred to as Epie-Atissa, the Epie and Atissa are actually two nations that live along Epie Creek, northeast of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria and they speak the Epie language.
This people were established by migrants mainly from the Engenni to the north. The Engenni people are an Edoid group. The Epie-Atissa share cultural aspects of both the Ijaw and the Engenni.
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The Epie have villages that run from Igbogene to Amarata; namely, Igbogene, Yenegwe, Akenfa, Agudama Epie, Akenpai, Edepie, Okutukutu, Opolo, Biogbolo, Yenizue Gene, Kpansia, Yenizue Epie, Okaka, Ekeki, Azikoro and Amarata. The Atissa have villages that run from Onopa to Ikolo to Ogu to Agbura namely Onopa, Ovom, Yenagoa, Bebelebiri, Yenaka, Ikolo, Famgbe, Obogoro, Akaba, Ogu, Swali, and Agbura.
The Epie Language
The Epie language is recorded sometime in the 1970s to have had about 12,000 speakers spread from Igbogene to Amarata, but within the last 30 years the numbers of living speakers have greatly reduced. Though there is no current record of the numbers of speakers, the Epie language is not spared from the global epidemic that has befallen most of the world’s little languages. The forces that have contributed greatly to the decline in the numbers of speakers are not new.
Urbanisation and westernisation are factors, but another major problem that has contributed to the decline is the absence of certain cultural norms that one would usually find in other Nigerian ethnic groups. For example, the traditional chiefs and elders of council are very young men and women, some of them in their 20s. These young people have lost touch of the basic cultural heritage and are hence not capable of transferring it to the younger generations. Many cultural aspects of the Epie-Atissa people have been lost, mainly due to the loss of traditional culture in favor of Western ideals. The Epie-Atissa kingdom has been the eye-base of business in Bayelsa state. The largest public local market, situated at Swali in the Atissa clan, has been very resourceful to the people of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
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The Akenfa Community: An Interesting Part of the Epie-Aissa People
- One of the most important cities in the kingdom is called Akenfa; it is approximately 4 km square, making it the third largest community in the kingdom by area. Akenfa is currently ruled by a locally elected chief, Saiyah, who has ruled the community for approximately 12 years.
- According to the traditions of the Epie-Atissa kingdom, a chief will only be elected if the active chief is dead and buried for three months. The people of Akenfa have deviated from formal tradition and made the kingship an elected position around 2000. A new chief is elected after every four years.
- The Akenfa community is known to have the largest youth population in the kingdom, and these youth are known to be the pillars of the community. The youth are led by a locally elected official known as the Youth-President. This Youth-President is formally responsible for the youth’s welfare and he makes the decisions for the youth.
Alagoa, Ebiegberi Joe (2005). A History of the Niger Delta, Port Harcourt: Onyoma Research Publications.
Alagoa, Ebiegberi Joe ed. (1999). The Land and People of Bayelsa State: Central Niger Delta, Port Harcourt: Onyoma Research Publications.
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