The Dagombas are a Gur ethnic group of northern Ghana, numbering about 931,000 (2012). They inhabit the Northern Region of Ghana in the sparse savanna region below the sahelian belt, known as the Sudan.
The Dagomba ethnic group speak the Dagbani language which belongs to the More-Dagbani sub-group of the Gur languages. There are around 1 million speakers of Dagbani. The Dagomba are historically related to the Mossi people. The More/Mossi now have their homeland in central present-day Burkina Faso. The homeland of the Dagomba is called Dagbon and covers about 20,000 km2 in area.
The villages live mainly on agriculture, although the conditions of prolonged aridity in the savannah are not always the best conditions for the cultivation of cereals and vegetables.
The houses of the Dagomba people consist of huts of raw clay, with thatched roof supported by a central wooden pillar. Recently they tend to use also some concrete, especially for the floor, to improve the comfort of the structure and to reduce the maintenance. The "refrigerator" of the house consists of a clay jar normally placed near the window, without any "active" system that produces cold.
Na Gbewa is regarded as the founder of Dagbon. Dagomba are one of the ethnic groups with a sophisticated oral tradition woven around drums and other musical instruments. Thus, most of their history, until quite recently, has been passed down via oral tradition with drummers as professional griots. According to oral tradition, the political history of Dagbon has its origin in the life story of a legend called Tohazie (translated as "red hunter").
Dagomba culture is heavily influenced by Islam, brought to the region by Soninke (known as Wangara by Ghanaians) traders between the 12th and 15th centuries. Since the time of Naa Zangina, Islam has been the state religion and Islam seems to be growing rapidly ever since. The reformist activities of Afa Anjura in the middle of the twentieth century caused entire communities to embrace the Islamic religion en masse. Inheritance in the Dagomba people is patrilineal. Important festivals include the Damba, Bugum (fire festival) and the Islamic Eid festivals. The main settlement of the Dagomba is Tamale, which also serves as the Northern Region's capital.
The Mossi and Dagomba states are among the great West African medieval empires. Beginning in the 12th century, they eventually ruled the lands of the entire northern Volta basin, which today includes all of northern Ghana and Burkina Faso. During their second northern expansion, the Mossi invasion reached eastern Maasina and Lake Débo c. 1400, Benka in c. 1433 and Walata in 1477-83 (these empires were in present-day Mali). According to Dr Illiasu (1971) in his work The Origins of the Mossi-Dagomba states, the second period of the Mossi-Dagomba success came to an end with the restoration of Imperial Songhai power towards the close of the 15th century. Although the Mossi-Dagomba states have the same grandfather (Na Gbewa), the Dagomba are traditionally regarded as "senior" to the Mossi states of Ouagadougou, Yatenga and Fada N'Gourma.
The Dagombas migrated from around the areas of Lake Chad after the break up of the Ghana Empire at the end of the 13th Century.
The homeland of the Dagombas is called Dagbon and covers about 20,000 km2 in area. Much of the area was occupied by Konkombas before the formation of Dagbon Kingdom. It forms part of the Northern Region of Ghana, which includes the Mamprusi, Nanumba, Gonja, Mossi, Gurunsi (in particular the Frafra and Kusasi peoples), the Wala people and Ligbi. The area constitutes fourteen administrative districts in present-day Ghana. These are the Tamale Metropolitan, Yendi, Savelugu and Sagnerigu municipals, and Tolon, Kumbungu, Nanton, Gushegu, Karaga, Zabzugu, Saboba, Sang, Tatale and Cheriponi districts. The king of the Dagbon Traditional Kingdom is the Ya-Na, whose court and administrative capital is at Yendi. Dagbon as a kingdom has never been subjugated until it was incorporated as a territory of the Gold Coast government. The Dagbon Kingdom has traditional administrative responsibilities hitherto acephalous groups like the Konkomba, Bimoba, Chekosi, Basaari, Chamba, Wala, Gurusi and Zantasi. The seat of the Ya-Na or king of Dagbon (literally translated as "King of Absolute Power") is a collection of lion and cow skins. Thus, the Dagbon or its political system is often called the Yendi Skin (not throne or crown or stool). Another characteristic of the Dagomba is that their houses are arranged in a certain order, where the chief or elderly man has his hut built in the centre.
One of the major features of Dagomba society is chieftaincy. Their system of chieftancy is very hierarchical, with the Yaa-Naa, or paramount chief, at its head and a tiered system of rulers below him. In Dagbon, chiefs traditionally sit on a stack of skins