Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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AYENEW Fenta, PhD Candidate at AAU

This paper deals with the history of the Awi people, focusing on the origin and settlement of Awi People in Gojjam, their struggle for identity survival, and the course of Christianization and Amharization . Amde-Tsion was the first Ethiopia king who attempted to conquer the Awi People (Gojjam Agaws) during 14th century. However, he was not successful in conquering the region and his effort of conquest was not persistent so that the Awi people remained autonomous. A danger to their autonomy came when Gonder became a seat for the Ethiopian state during the 17th century. Agaw territories in Gojjam and Gonder became easily accessible to military forces of the state that targeted exploitation of rich resources of the region. Gonderine kings launched persistent wars of conquest and Christianization that continued from the reign of Susneyos (1607—1632) to the reign of Iyasu the Great (1682—1706). The end result of this persistence was incorporation of Gojjam Agaws beginning from the last decades of seventeenth century and Christianization of the region. During the Era of Princes Agaw Midir became a bone of contention between the regional lords of Gojjam, particularly Damot and Guardians of Gonder kings, because the Agaw- inhabited regions of Agaw Midir and Metekel were resourceful areas that attracted the eyes of different regional lords. After the conquest, the Agaws supplied Gonder with cattle, butter, honey, and different agricultural produce. Thus, Gonderine rulers did not want the region of Agaws to fall under the rule of the regional lords of Gojjam, particularly Damot. Agaw Midir and Metekel fell under the rule of Gojjam ruling families with rise of Ras Adal Tessem (Nigus Tekle Haimanot) to power since 1870s. Thus, Agaws fell under Gojjam’s regional administration until the fall of Ras Hailu in 1932 and then under the appointees of Emperor Haile Sillassie. To organize this paper, the researcher used primary and secondary sources collected during his senior essay and MA thesis works that focused on the history of Gojjam Agaws. The researcher further enriched the sources with additional materials collected during the course of dissertation research and critically investigated and analyzed in order to organize this paper.Generally, this paper intended to increase our knowledge of ethnic identities in Ethiopia and their long history of struggle to maintain their identities. The long history of the Gojjam Agaws to survive and maintain their identity by occupying western parts of Gojjam that constituted for Agaw Midir and parts of Metekel Awraja is documented here. Further, this paper will serve as a stepping-stone for other researchers who engaged in ethnographic studies in Ethiopia.