AfriGeneas Writers Forum Archive
My story: The Watutsi
Per VKN's suggestion I am trying my hand at telling my story. This is just a few paragraphs to start. Shell
While sitting down at the computer one day, I remembered a story my grandfather told me as a small child. He said that we came from a group of people called the Watutsi in Africa. The Watutsi were very tall and were great warriors. He said that our ancestor did not come to America from Africa, but from England. He went on to further say that our African name was pronounced " Bull" but the "white" man had changed it to "Thomas."
I decided to search the Watutsi people and see what information I could find. I came across and article by an international lawyer who wrote that the Watutsi people were originally a Bantu people from Ethiopia who had migrated down the Nile river into what is now Rwanda and Burundi. ( I later learned that they were also in Tanzania). He also went on to say that they were Pre-Rabbinic Jews but much of their religion and original language was lost through colonization and assimilation.
I decided to email this lawyer and tell him my story. I also sent my picture to him because interestingly enough I had always been told that I looked " Somalian or Ethiopian." Many times I was told this by African people. I also wanted to know if our oral tradition had any elements of truth or did it have the ring of a folk tale.
What I did not expect was an immediate response that quickly began to snowball into the most interesting summer of my life. The lawyer stated to me that not only was the story possible but that he had forwarded my story and picture to several Tutsi scholar, in Rwanda and Burundi. He felt that I resembled many of the royal family members and that I should get in touch with them.
After sending my story to the top Tutsi anthropologist in Belgium, He wrote that not only was my story credible, but that he did not see the necessity for any DNA testing to prove it. He explained that the Watutsi, or present day Tutsi, were never involved in the slave trade. When Tippo Tip , the portugese slave trader, came to enslave the Tutsi that they were such great warriors that he was turned away. He also felt that my ancestor reached England by traveling with explorers or missionaries. The first explorers to reach Rwanda were from Great Britain.
I should take time to note here that in 1994, thousands of Tutsi were unmercifully slaughtered in a genocide by the Hutu people. The Tutsi were identified by their features mainly thin noses, slanted eyes and by their height. I was told by several Tutsi that had I been there I would have been killed.
I next recieved a letter from the ambassador to Rwanda. He informed me that he had been sent my story and my letter and that I was definitely Mututsi (a Watutsi female). He also sent a list or Rwandan kings so that I could find the mwame (King) from which my ancestor would be related to. He requested that I call the exiled king that is here in Washington D.C. right away. After speaking to the king he asked that I send him "many pictures" and that I come to D.C. to see him.
There were still several questions in my mind of which I needed more information: How did my ancestor reach England? Under what circumstances was he brought to America? Was he enslaved or Free? How did he end up in Alabama? Where was his wife and where there any other children?
Just as quickly as the emails were coming in, so as quickly did it all turn sour. I began recieveing emails that I should have nothing to do with the King here in exile. I was told that he would try to exploit me and my family for his own petty gains and that he would also use our pictures in satanic worship. It was recommended that should I have any contact with him that it be in the presence of a third party. I was also warned to stay away from the "bad Tutsi" and stick with the" good "ones. Staying away from the Hutu was already a given.
I knew without communicating with the King I was not only losing my best resource for historical information but that I would also be insulting a sector of the Tutsi community. It was a hard choice.I also knew that the Tutsi community is small that at some point I felt that If I continued to pursue my search at some point dealing with him would be inevitable. I decided that I would stay away from the politics and gain as much information as I could from old fashioned digging and scholarly research.
So I joined my local AA genealogy society. What I was told was that I needed a trail from me to the Watutsi. Through census records I was able to go back to the son of the Watutsi. He was born in Coosa county, Alabama. He and his wife married and moved to Alexander City, Tallapoosa County, Alabama. While researching the city or Alexander City, I found that the largest slaveholder in the city was named Seaborn Thomas. Knowing that "Thomas" was the surname given to the Watutsi I felt that I was on the right track.
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