Introduction / History
The Puku live in the Dalai and Fakai districts of Sokoto state, Nigeria. This area consists of sandy plains and steep-sided hills of rock. It is a well-watered region with a few rivers and many streams running through it. The Puku are one of the Plateau peoples of the Benue-Congo language family. They are closely related to the Bangawa and Dukawa peoples and share many cultural traits with them.
In the 1700's, war erupted between the kingdom of Kebbi and the people of Zamfara. The Puku became foot soldiers, bodyguards, and slaves for the Kebbi. Because of Zamfara attacks, the Puku and Kebbi left the region in which they lived. They soon established their own kingdom and became a strong fighting force against the Fulani slave raids that followed.
Overall, the Puku are an alert, industrious people with strong physiques. The males engage in wrestling on a regular basis, and the women are known for their ability to carry heavy loads upon their shoulders.
What are their lives like?
Most Puku work on small farms and raise some livestock. Guinea corn, rice, sweet potatoes, red peppers, cotton, and tobacco are among the crops grown. The Puku are excellent farmers, using such tools as plows, hoes, axes, and sickles. The women regularly collect forest products needed for food preparation, medicinal uses, and other purposes. Some of these products include honey, locust-beans, roots of certain plants, and various types of wood. Hunting and fishing are also engaged in but have declined in importance in recent years. Many Puku specialize in such crafts as wood-working, weaving, and pottery-making.
Puku compounds consist of round huts with mud walls and thatched roofs. Beds are also made of mud and are raised off the ground. During cold weather, fires are built under the beds to provide warmth. The compounds are very orderly, with firewood precisely stacked against the compound walls. Each compound has a gate house, which is used to receive guests, to store grain, and to keep livestock.
When a Puku woman is pregnant, she must not eat certain foods, leave her hut at midday, or enter water for fear of evil spirits. When the child is born, neither parent may carry it. Rather, a young nurse holds the baby towards the mother when it needs to be fed.
When children reach the age of seven, they begin working. A boy is first given a small hoe and later is given a weapon to take hunting with his father. When he is strong enough to participate in wrestling matches, a boy is ushered into manhood in a special initiation ceremony. A girl helps her mother with household duties and tends to the younger children. Later, she will be taught the art of pottery-making.
Wrestling is an important activity for Puku males. Wrestling can be inter- or intra-village affairs, and each year, one champion wrestler is awarded a forked stick. For years to come, he will carry this stick over his shoulder.
What are their beliefs?
A number of the Puku have converted to Islam due to Hausa and Fulani influence, but most still practice their traditional religion. Cults are joined by both men and women, and certain cult objects, such as rocks or trees, are worshipped. Men offer prayers and sacrifices to their own personal gods, which are usually inanimate objects. Certain rituals are conducted in conjunction with these prayers and sacrifices to ensure the growth of healthy crops or to prevent illnesses. A chief "rainmaker" prays to the gods to send rain, and the supreme being, Ashila, is addressed in times of crisis.
What are their needs?
The Puku have access to few Christian resources in their own language. A majority of Puku have yet to hear the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to send missionaries who can share the Gospel with the Puku in culturally relevant ways.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to anoint the efforts of missions agencies focusing on the Puku.
* Pray that God will use the Puku believers to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Puku church for the glory of His name!