State and Non-State Actors in Land Appropriation: Colonial Land Policy and the Role of the Tindana in Northern Ghana

Haruna Abdallah Imam


This paper draws historical lines from Precolonial, Colonial to Postcolonial periods, linking colonial land policy to that of the state, and their effects on the traditional functions of the tindana (‘landowner’) in Dagbon. The office of the earthpriest was known throughout West Africa. Among the Dagbamba of Northern Ghana for example, the tindana did not only ‘own’ the land, but by reason of his or her ‘ownership’, was the only one who knew or was known by, the ‘spirit of the land’. Principally, the tindaamba (plural for tindana) appropriated land in the past, but with colonialism and subsequently independence, the power to distribute land has been vested in the chiefs and/or the state (Government of Ghana). In this sense, modernity has affected the role of the tindana. The paper concludes that the roles of the tindaamba in contemporary land issues are quite marginal. The influence they now enjoy is more apparent than real.

Keywords: Tindana; Earth Priest; Dagbon; Yaan Naa; Land Policy

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ISSN (Paper)2224-5766 ISSN (Online)2225-0484

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