“A Spiritual Heritage”: Change And Continuity In Ancestrally Based Authority Over Land In Northern Ghana

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Lauren E. Burrows (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: https://library.appstate.edu/
Rebecca Witter

Abstract: This thesis examines change and continuity in ancestrally based authority over land in Northern Ghana. I draw from an exploratory review of literature on customary belief systems, land tenure, colonialism, land law, and the institution of the earth priests (tindaanas). I interpret my findings with reference to preliminary research conducted in Northern Ghana. Appointed by the ancestors, tindaanas have traditionally held authority over land in much of Northern Ghana. The colonial imposition of indirect rule and the ambiguities found within the 1979 postcolonial Constitution had important implications for ancestrally based authority. These changes created an opening and an opportunity for tindaana, chiefs, clan heads, and landowning families to compete for reestablishing claims over ancestral land. Despite, and perhaps because of, resulting conflicts, land ownership became more negotiable in Northern Ghana as “tradition” adapted and evolved for the continuation of ancestral authority in the present day. I argue that when tindaanas remain in positions of authority over land, they ensure a “spiritual heritage” – a shared collective legacy of intergenerational, more-than-material, and inclusive land management, preserving land in “ancestral trust” for future generations. Thus, preservation of the spiritual heritage of Northern Ghana has important implications for achieving sustainable development within the region.

Additional Information

Honors Project
Burrows, L. (2019). “A Spiritual Heritage”: Change And Continuity In Ancestrally Based Authority Over Land In Northern Ghana. Unpublished Honors Thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2019
customary land tenure, tindaana ancestral authority, spiritual heritage, sustainable development, Northern Ghana

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