Introduction / History The Dyan, who can be recognized by their facial scars, live in the area around the town of Diebougou, west of Ouagadougou in southern Burkina Faso. The area's fertile soil is good for the economy, since agricultural sales are the main source of income. Further income arises from French army pensions and from contributions by villagers who work outside the area. For example, many young people leave the village to earn more money in Cote d'Ivoire. Cauri shells are still a factor in their economic exchange, with 20 cauris equal in value to 5 francs CFA, the Burkinabe currency.
Some Dyan are multilingual in the languages of the surrounding ethnic groups. The trade language for southwestern Burkina Faso, Jula, has had some influence on Dyan. However, for the most part, the Dyan do not wish to learn their neighbor's languages. They keep to themselves, and prefer others to do the same. Many wish for a relative to be educated, since one person's advancement can have economic advantages for the whole family. However, because of economic constraints and few immediate results, most people receive rather poor schooling.
The social units of the community are the family, the clan and the village. Each of these units has its own head. The village chief is responsible for jurisdiction and for cultic matters concerning the village's spirit. Each village chooses a spirit to which it offers sacrifices. These spirits are considered to be the intermediaries between man and God and instruments of control and supervision. When problems arise, the causes are thought to be in the spiritual world, so people try to appease the spirits through sacrifices. A healer has a privileged role in this respect and is supposedly able to determine why a spirit is upset and what is needed for reconciliation.
There is a church among the Dyan, although it has grown very slowly. One pastor has been working among the people and trying to reach them for over twenty years.