Introduction / History The Dan (Gio) are located in northeastern Liberia and in Ivory Coast. The terrain of the area ranges from forests in the south to savanna grasslands in the north. According to oral tradition, centuries ago the Dan migrated from present-day Guinea and Mali into their current locations in Liberia and Ivory Coast.
For many years, the Dan fought with the surrounding peoples and were proud of their fierce, war-like reputation. Along with their Mande-speaking neighbors, the Dan invaded the coastal region, replacing some of the Atlantic tribes and pushing back the Kru. After Liberia became a nation in 1847, the new government in Monrovia began pacifying these warring peoples. By the early 1900s, peace had been achieved, and administrative controls had been established.
The Dan speak a Mande language that has many different accents. Depending on the distances that separate one group from another, the Dan language may differ in some spoken words and accents.
What are their lives like? The Dan are primarily farmers, annually clearing the forest land to grow their crops. They cultivate staple crops such as rice, cassava, and sweet potatoes. They also grow cash crops such as cocoa, coffee, and rubber. Women are given a small plot of ground on which to grow their own vegetables to use in the households or to sell in the market. Greens are gathered from domestic and wild plants in the forest. Palm oil is extracted from the many wild palm oil trees and then used for such things as fuel and cooking.
Dan men do most of the agricultural work, but women help with the harvesting and weeding. Men also do all of the hunting and most of the fishing, while women tend to such domestic duties as caring for the children and preparing the meals. Children help by chasing wild animals and birds away from the crops. The Gio also raise livestock such as cattle, sheep, and goats. These animals are eaten only on special ritual occasions involving much feasting.
Dan villages are divided into quarters, each housing an extended family or lineage. Each quarter is headed by a "quarter chief," who is chosen either for being the oldest male in the family or for having the most aggressive personality. Although the village or town chief administers authority over the whole village, the real power comes from the council of elders who assist the chief in all decisions.
Traditional Dan huts were small, single-room dwellings made of mud and thatch. Each wife of a man had her own hut where her children lived until they were old enough to move out. Today, houses are large and rectangular and have several rooms. Instead of living in separate houses, multiple wives live in different rooms in the same house with their husband.
Dan men have their own "secret society", which marks their initiation into manhood and guides them throughout their lives. The men's society is controlled by the elders and acts as a source of power for the community. Boys initiated into the society are prepared to encounter the mysteries of the spirit world and to learn the rules of adult Dan men. Women, too, have a similar society.
What are their beliefs? The Dan believe in a supreme god who created the universe and everything in it. They do not believe that man can reach this god; thus, they do not worship him. Instead, a spiritual power called Du acts as mediator between the people and the supreme god. Du is said to really be the spirit located in each person. The Dan believe in reincarnation, in which the Du, or spirit, of a person can pass into another person or even an animal after death.
What are their needs? The Dan have Scriptures translated into their language. Still, the majority of the Dan follow their traditional religion. More evangelistic work and much prayer are greatly needed to bring the Dan to a saving knowledge of Christ.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord of the harvest to call missionaries to take the Good News to the Dan.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to show missions agencies focusing on the Dan culturally relevant ways to reach them.
* Ask the Lord to mightily use Dan believers to minister to their own people.
* Ask God to raise prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a strong Dan church for the glory of His name!