Kurtey People



The Kurtey people is a small ethnic group mainly found in Niger and Mali who represent a fusion of Songhais, Zermas, and Fulbes.

They are also found in other countries like Benin, Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso.



Fulbes first arrived in what is today Niger around 1750 under the leadership of Chief Maliki. By 1820, they had settled on the river on islands near Tillabéry and Niamey. There they mixed with the Sorkos and Kados, adopted the local culture and languages, and evolved into a distinct group. They dominated the Niger River región before the arrival of the French



Today, they raise river rice, millet, tobáceo, and cattle. They are also skilled fishermen. Large numbers of Kurteys today are seasonal laborers who spend long stretches of time working in Ghana.

Kurtey traditionally engage in sedentary cattle raising—a legacy of their Fula ancestry—as well as fishing (like Sorko people), tobacco farming, and riverine flood irrigated millet and rice farming.


Assimilation into Songhai

The Kurtey were formed from the movement of Fula people into the Niger River valley of modern Tillaberi Region, Niger in the 18th century, and their intermarriage with local Songhai, Zarma, Sorko and others. While retaining many aspects of Fula traditional culture, the Kurtey have assimilated into Songhai-Zarma ways of life and speak a Southern Songhay dialect. Some outside observers consider them a subsection of the Songhai people, while others describe them as communities with distinct histories, cultures, and ethnic self-identification within the larger Songhai speaking social space, of which the Songhai people are only one part.


Customs and demography

They are less than 50,000 in numbers as of today, concentrated on islands and along the Niger river banks near Sansani, Dessa and Ayorou; in Niamey (especially in Koutoukalé quarter); and in villages along the lower middle Niger from Gao to northern Nigeria. Some Kurtey continue to mark themselves with their traditional facial scarification: a small cross at the top of each cheekbone. The Kurtey are also one of six Nigerien ethnic groups who have historically carried out ritual Female circumcision.


Relations with others

In the 19th century, many Muslim Kurtey engaged in slave raiding amongst pagan Zarma along the Niger, earning them the Zarma nickname "Thieves of Men" While they are, historically, bitter rivals of the Wogo people who settled in the same area from the middle Niger beginning around 1800, the two ethnic groups have become closely related, settled in the same areas, speaking similar dialects, and sharing similar ways of life. Both were Muslim before migrating to the area, enjoying close relations with the Fula Emirate of Say.