Tarok is an agrarian society in the hills and on the plains southeast of Plateau State, Nigeria.
According to Tanchit Monica Binjin nee Wuyep Vongdoh in an interview with Bella Naija claims they’re the second largest ethnic group in the state.
The Tarok is an amalgamation of various peoples who now form a more or less ‘homogeneous’ group.
The constituents were of Pe, Ngas, Jukun, Boghom, Tel ( Montol ) and probably Tal origins, while others still remain obscure or unknown.
The Tarok people are found mainly in Langtang-North, Langtang-South, Wase, Mikang and Kanke Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Plateau State in central Nigeria.
Their main town of Langtang is located about 180 kilometres southeast of Jos, the state capital.
They are found in large numbers in Shendam, Mikang, Qua’an-Pan, Kanam, Kanke and Pankshin LGAs.
The Tarok people are also found in some part of Tafawa Balewa LGA of Bauchi state the Sur (Tapshin.
Tarok farming communities are also scattered in Nasarawa and Taraba states.
Scattered in Nasarawa and Taraba states are Tarok farming communities.
The culture at a micro level portrays this admixture of peoples of the Tarok nation.
Tarok people believe that militarism naturally runs in their veins.
The Tarok are remarkably successful in the Nigeria armed forces such that it is rumoured that there is one military General in every squared kilometre of Tarok land.
The adventures of their men in the military had made the land famous and the son’s and daughters very proud.
The Tarok call themselves o’Tárók, their language iTárók, and their land ìTàrok.
Taroks are proud of their heritage and are determined to preserve it, and this is evident in the traditional architecture that remains to date.
The Name and Language “Tarok”
In the literature, other names have been used for Tarok as Appa, Yergam and its variants of Yergum and Yergem.
The name Tarok itself has been wrongly spelled by some as Taroh, some will go as fast as insisting that it is Taroh and not Tarok.
The name Appa on the other hand is used by the Jukun to refer to oTarok as a friendship term.
These fresh insights are pointing to the conclusion that Tarok was a nickname given to the Tal/Ngas immigrants. The name of the original group is lost and has been replaced by the nickname.
The term Pe-Tarok refers to the people who first spoke the original form of the language called Tarok today the mismatch notwithstanding.
The origins of the peoples may be a knotty topic, but it is clear that Proto-Tarok is the parent of the language which is known as Tarok today (whatever might have been their original name).
One of the books used while creating this article is “The Tarok Language: Its Basic Principles and Grammar”. The Author, Selbut Longtau described Tarok as one of the Benue–Congo languages almost completely submerged in a sea of Chadic languages.
These languages include Ngas, Tel, Boghom, Hausa, Fulfulde, and Yiwom. Its non-Chadic neighbours are Pe, Jukun-Wase, and Yangkam.
Tarok has spread considerably in the twentieth century and it now borders Wapan in the south-east. The Chadic languages belong to a different language family called Afroasiatic.
Selbut Longtau in his book further explained that Tarok had settled in their present abode long before the eastern and southward movements of Boghom and Ngas respectively.
The Origin of Tarok People
As is common with most African cultures, available data on the origin and the history of the people is hinged on oral tradition and its attendant controversies. The Tarok race is no exception to this dilemma.
The absence of any written record has thus left this subject open to the fertile imagination of historiographers who subsequently struggle to recreate or unravel the conundrum.
One tradition has it that the Tarok people originated from central and southern parts of the continent of Africa and are Bantoid. The other has even a Middle Eastern origin (Yemen/Egypt). As a result, western and eastern migration routes thus developed.
Further still, scholars have postulated linguistic evidence linking the Tarok to a western migration route and at the same time emphasizing a Niger-Benue confluence origin and a Benue Congo Language, thus challenging any Eastern and Chadic connections.
The Southern African, Niger-Benue confluence origins and migration routes might be controversial and intriguing but it is generally agreed, without any iota of doubt about the common rendezvous of the Tarok race at Tal in the present location in Langtang North and south.
Migration from Tal to Tarok Land
Oral tradition and anthropological notes indicate that by the middle of the century the Tarok race had already migrated from Tal to the present-day Tarok land.
The migration is said to be in three phases:
Zinni clan went to Dutse (Gazum)
Namurang went to what is now Kanam country and Gunnu brought Ce (Langtang)
Bwarat and Sa to the general area known today as plain Tarok. This Plain Tarok later on migrated to Wase.
Oral tradition and anthropological notes by Capt. T A Izard indicates that the Tarok of Sa, Dangal, Chuwi, and Singha had already spread to the plain before 1760.
When the Tarok left Tal and arrived at Langtang, Gunnu established himself at the South-west end of Langtang hill, while Bwarat went north-east and settled below.
As mentioned earlier, Tarok land is traditionally divided into hills and plains Tarok. The Hill Tarok (O’Tarok ga Barn) refers to the plains Tarok as O’Tarok ga Byan, but this nomenclature today refers to the Tarok in Langtang South and Wase generally.
Tarok mythology had earlier predicted the arrival of the white men (Ngol: gat Nyalang) and that they will not bring any harm but progress.
No wonder when the white men came and were rejected by neighboring communities, the Tarok accepted them whole-heartedly in an open embrace and assisted in building his accommodation and the first church in Plateau State.
Since then, the relationship between Tarok and western civilization has been growing from strength to strength.
Little wonder that the Tarok sons and daughters have made great exploits in the local, state, national, and international arena.
History of the Tarok People
A world-class Anthropologist and great lecturer at the prestigious University of Jos, Dr. Nankap Elias Lamle, stated that in the early twentieth century people from other ethnic groups such as Tal, Ngas, Jukun, Tel (Montol/Dwal), and Yiwom (Gerkawa) migrated and settled together with the initial Timwat and Funyallang clans.
People from these ethnic groups came as migrants labour workers. The Timwat and Funyallang people gave them land to settle in Tarokland after they have served the former.
Colonialism and Christianity came into Tarokland by 1904. The initial inhabitants could not trust the missionaries and colonialists as such did not encourage their people to join them.
With the introduction of modernism, the later migrants to Tarokland used their connections to the missionaries and colonialists to acquire western education and join the army. Today these latter migrants are at the helm of affairs in Nigeria as such try to use their influence to change the history of the Tarok people.
Furthermore, the great scholar, Lamle asserted that the framework of Tarok migration supports the assertion above and is based on the fact that the Tarok language is part of the Benue–Congo language family.
However, other peoples of the Chadic language family, such as the Ngas, Boghom, Tel (Montol) and Yiwom, shifted to the Benue–Congo family and are given full status as Tarok.
Also, the Jukun, who speak languages of the Benue–Congo family, joined the Tarok. What is called the Tarok people are actually a mixture of many ethnolinguistic groups.
Culture of the Tarok People
The Tarok people have an ancestral cult that retains considerable prestige and importance, despite major inroads of Christianity into the area.
One of the unique rites of the Tarok people is the cultural day festival which is known as Ilum Otarok which is an annual event that depicts the culture and tradition of the Tarok people of Plateau state. It has been a uniting force for the Tarok people to come together as one family.
The ancestors, Orìm, are represented by initiated males and post-menopausal women. The cult activities take place in sacred groves outside almost all Tarok settlements.
Orìm are mostly heard but emerge as masked figures under some circumstances, especially for the disciplining of ‘stubborn’ women and for making prophecies.
Orìm figures speak through voice disguisers in a language dotted with code words although framed in normal Tarok syntax and their utterances are interpreted by unmasked figures.
Each Tarok settlement of any size has a sacred grove outside it, which is conserved as the place of the Orim or ancestors.
The singular form, ùrìm, is applied to a dead person or an ancestor, while Orìm refers to the collective ancestors and the cult itself. Men above a certain age are allowed to enter the grove and engage with their ancestors.
These inhabit the land of the dead and are thus in contact with all those who have died, including young people and children who were not admitted to the Orìm.
On certain nights when the ‘Orìm are out’, women and children must stay in their houses. Orim can also be seen ‘dressed’, i.e., appearing as masquerades, when they engage with women through an interpreter.
Surprisingly, most Tarok are Christian and Langtang hosts some large churches, but the association of the Orìm with power ensures that these two systems continue to coexist.
Indeed, it is said that the Orìm take care to visit the houses of the retired generals and other influential figures at night to cement the bonds between two very different types of power.
Orìm society is graded, in the sense that there are members who are not fully initiated and so cannot be let into the inner secrets of the society.
Some of the Orìm vocabularies is therefore for internal concealment, that is, there are code-words among the elder members to conceal the meaning of what is being said from junior members.
The main function of the Orim from the external point of view is to maintain order, both spiritual and actual, within the society but also to prepare for warfare and other collective action.
In practice, maintaining order seems to be about disciplining women, who are forced to cook food as a punishment for being lazy or ‘stubborn’. This category of Orìm is called Orìm aga., literally ‘masquerade that gives trouble’ and its specialty is to fine women.
There is a special season, aga; ‘time of trouble’, for meting out fines to offenders.
The Orìm are also in contact with the dead and it is believed that the spirits of dead children require to be fed; hence they will request special meals from the mother of such children.
Orìm also has a marriage-broking function; for example, young women tell the Orìm the name of the young man they would like to marry, and they find ways of passing on the message.
Naming Ceremony and Styles
The coming of a newborn is a blessing to the parents and community.
For the community to benefit from a new child’s birth, he/she must be alive to adulthood.
As a result, children are initiated into the Orim cult to prevent them from dying.
Children are named based on the circumstances surrounding the birth.
Names like Nanmwa which means God has provided. usually given because the parents had given up on having a child.
Tarok Marriage Rites
Marriage is known as “ikam uchor” It is considered a social responsibility. Adults are expected to establish their homes.
Its significance is seen during the death of an unmarried adult, where the play partners referred to as “onim gha ijam” will mark his exit with a traditional drama.
Women of play partners referred to as “ocha ga ijam” accompany the footsteps of the corpse bearers, while pouring ashes and rolling a stone [igbongbar]
When a young man sees a young girl [uyenbyen] whom he likes, he uses body language to indicate interest.
Thereafter, he toasts her with a gift, which in the past was not very specific, but mostly things soap and cream.
Once the toasting rights have been secured, multiple dating is allowed until an open ceremony is held to determine the lucky toaster; this is no longer accepted. However, there are still relics of these in some rural communities.
Gifts are presented to the mother. The man makes an offer for marriage known as “nvok igya”. He presents headgear, pants, underwear, and slippers. If these gifts are accepted by both the mother and lady, dating is said to have taken effect.
Afterward, bride price payment of clothes, bag of rice, one big basin of beniseed azhin ananjyol is given.
There is also a requirement to build a round hut guest room referred to as “ijini” which will be used by the couple to freely relax whenever the man visits, but without sexual activity.
The father of the bride is given a big gown with trousers, an inner shirt, and shoes. He is also expected to be farmed for by the supposed groom.
A “dir khaa godo” is given to maternal uncles and is considered important also. Without it, the children of that couple will be regarded as that of the maternal uncles, no matter how long they have been married.
An interesting fact about Tarok weddings is that there is no fixed date to take a man’s daughter away for marriage. Instead, they elope; then the groom’s family sends a message to bride’s family informing them of their daughter’s whereabouts.
Ruling Class and Governance
The Tarok people consist of an autonomous community of over twenty sub-clans.
They reserve cultural rights over certain traditional rights that determine their status.
Every sub-clan has a spiritual leader known as ponzhi nbin.
Before the advent of colonialism, he was also the political leader of the people.
The ponzhi nbin institution represents the sovereign authority of the people.
Funerals and internment of Tarok People
Funeral rites in Tarok land are also unique.
The death and subsequent burial of an elderly man is followed by Ngaga which involves the beating of drums, chanting of incantations, and wielding of spears meant to drive away death.
This is followed by nken orim during which the spirit of the dead man is received and reunited with his ancestors and by extension, the people.
Some of the foods consumed by the Tarok people are Amwam (amora), zogale (moringa) etc. and soups like Agbantar (groundnut soup) and Izhin.
Tarok Native Proverb
Ina’va ya ka’swal kat te, uponzhinan yi ya ‘ichinchin ana.
It Literally translates: [You do not have any human help. You can only depend on God]
Economic Activities of the Tarok People
The Tarok people are mainly farmers producing both food and cash crops such as guinea corn, maize, millet, yams, rice, cassava, beans, groundnuts, cotton, benniseed, etc.
Other economic activities of the Tarok people include blacksmithing, carving, fishing, hunting, and mining local salt using indigenous technologies.
The traditional pomade known as miko, produced from the mahogany tree also abound in Tarok land.
Local textile is also popular with the Tarok man such as Le. Gba, nyante, agodo etc
Some Prominent Tarok People
Dr Elias Nankap Lamle: (University of Jos a graduate of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Belgium, under the Institute for Anthropology research in Africa, with emphasis on Conflict Management and peace studies
Daniel Lamda Bongtur: (HRH Madakin Langtang), Monarch
Esther Bali: writer
Sim Shagaya: Businessman
Sticky Ya Bongtur: Poet, Actor
Solomon Selkap Dalung: Nigerian Politician, Lawyer and Academician. He was made the Minister of Youth and Sports by President Muhammadu Buhari in November 2015 and his tenure ended in May 2019.
Manyil Dashe: Researcher
Lt. Gen Joshua Nimyel Dogonyaro (rtd),
Lt Gen. Jeremiah Useni (rtd),
Gen Domkat Bali (rtd),
Brig Gen John Nanzip Shagaya (rtd and one time Senator),
Major Gen. Joseph Nanven Garba (Deceased),
Brig. Gen Musa Gambo (rtd),
Brig. Gen Jonathan N Temlong (rtd),
Brig. Gen Yakubu Rimdans (rtd),
Senator Venmak Kurnap Dangin,
Barr Solomon Dalung,
Hon. Beni Lar: a present member of the House of Representatives,
Brig. Gen Rimtip,
Chief Solomon D. Lar (Deceased),
Professor Mary Lar: former Nigerian Ambassador to The Hague, Netherlands,
Air Marshal Jonah Domfa Wuyep: Former Chief of the Air Staff of the Nigerian Air Force,
Prof. J.F. Jemkur: Dean of Arts & Professor of Archeology, University of Jos
Dindam D. Killi, Esq: Activist, lawyer and former student leader
Joshua Nimyel: Ministry of Works and Housing, Plateau State Government
RTD Col. Dauda Nimyel: Ponzhi Gani of the Pil-gani community
Brig. Gen Joseph Nimmyel: Defense HQTRS Abuja
Prince Goselle Obed Nanjul: International Student Ambassador, Bangor University, United Kingdom
Mr. Mark Kparmak: a Research Administrator, Office of Research and Development and Project Manager of the World Bank-Africa Centre of Excellence in Phytomedicine Research and Development, University of Jos
HRH Mr. Stanley Selchak Sambo: the Ponzhi Bwarat, paramount ruler of Bwarat in Langtang North LGA.
Chief Nanzing Nden: Dan Madamin Langtang
Senator Victor Lar: Former Senator, representing Plateau South Senatorial District of Plateau State Nigeria from 2011 – 2015
Mr. N Nimfel: Director of Human Resources Management, Federal Ministry of Justice Headquarters, Abuja
Chief Dan Dul: Barayan Langtang and Chairman, Langtang North Local Government, Plateau State
Major Gen. Shidafa Nandul (Rtd): Former Intelligence Chief at Defence Headquarters Abuja
Major Gen. Pennap (rtd)
Prof. Stephen Banfa: University of Jos)
Air Commodore Banfa (rtd)
Mr. Timkat Nanmak Peter: 21st Century Entrepreneur
Mr. Nancwat Garba: A Great Entrepreneur
Generals JN Tyemlong,
Colonels BP Salmwang (rtd),
Group Captain SD Fadip-Miri: State Manager Defence Health Maintenance Ltd Plateau/Nasarawa States
Apostle Joshua Selman Nimmak: Nigerian Gospel minister, instrumentalist, Chemical Engineer, conference speaker, and televangelist.
Amongst numerous other prominent Tarok people who are not mentioned here.
List of 56 Ethnic Groups/Tribes in Plateau State
Afizere – Jos North / Jos East
Amo – Bassa
Anaguta – Jos North
Atten – Riyom
Bache – Bassa
Bashar – Wase
Berom – Jos South, Barking – ladi, Riyom, Jos North.
Bogghom – Kanam
Buji – Bassa
Bwarak – Pankshin
Chakfem – Mangu
Chokobo – Bassa
Doemak – Quanpan
Duguza – Bassa
Fier – Pankshin
Firan – Jos East
Gamai – Shendam
Gus – Bassa
Ibaas – Barkin-Ladi
Irigwe – Bassa
Jere – Bassa
Janji – Bassa
Jipal – Mangu
Jahr – Kanam
Jukun – Wase
Kadung – Mangu / Pankshin
Koenoem – Shendam
Kulere – Bokkos
Kurama – Bassa
Kwagalak – Quanpan
Lemoro – Bassa
Mhiship – Pankshin/ Kanke
Merniang – Quanpan
Mupun – Pankshin
Mushere – Bokkos
Mwaghavul – Mangu
Ngas – pankshin / Kanke
Nteng – Quanpan
Piapung – Mikang
Piti – Riyom
Pyem – Mangu
Ribina – Bassa
Ron – Bokkos
Pai – Pankshin / Shendam
Sigdi – Mangu
Takkas – Pankshin
Tal – Pankshin
Tambes – Pankshin
Tarok – Langtang North/ South, Kanke & Wase
Tarya – Bassa
Tehl Tao – Pankshin
Youm – Mikang
While some tribes are more popular than the others in Plateau State, they are nonetheless still tribes and have produced amazing people throughout history.
Inside Jos is determined to write content such as the one you just finished reading for all the Ethnic groups in Plateau State.
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The Tarok people are found principally in Langtang-North, Langtang-South, Wase, Mikang, and Kanke Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Plateau State in Central Nigeria. Their main town of Langtang is located about 186 kilometres south-east of Jos, the state capital.