Like many tribes, the legend of their beginnings is by their god.  In the case of the Lamba, their god was named Luchyele.

From Lamba Legend and History, Clement Doke:

Luchyele is said to have come from the east ‘arranging’ the whole country, rivers, hills, anthills, trees and grass.  He came with numbers of people, planting the tribes and communities in their respective places, and passed on to the westward.  Curious markings on the sandstone in the Itabwa plain, not far from Chiwala’s village and Ndola township, are pointed out as being the footprints of Luchyele and his people as they passed.  It is said that the stones then were soft like mud, but that as soon as Luchyele had passed the mud hardened, and the marks have been preserved ever since. 

The oral tradition of the Lamba people is that, at first, they had no chief until a man, Chipimpi arrived with this sister.  The sister, Kawunda Shimanjemanje, had devised a plan to steal seed from the Luba people.  She grew her hair long and while working in the Luba gardens managed to take seeds and hide them in her hair.  When she and Chimpimpi came to Lambaland, she was able to plant the seeds and grow excellent crops.  So impressed were the people that they chose Chimpimpi as their chief.

Later on, Chimpimpi had a son, also named Kawunda, who grew up to be very cruel.  One clan group, tired of Kawunda’s cruelty, took themselves off to one of the sunken lakes in their land.  They tied themselves together with a long rope and, after the first person had thrown himself into the lake, one by one, each person toppled into the lake.  All would have drowned but for the last man in line; he got a knife and cut the rope in front of his wife so that both of them were saved. 

The actual date of the arrival of the Lamba is thought to be in the 1600s.  The tribe grew to cover a large area in present-day Zambia and in Katanga.  They knew how to smelt copper which they traded along with elephant tusks.  Most trade was, at first, through the Kazembe Lunda. 

When the slave traders arrived in Lambaland, during the 1860s this was the beginning of almost-the-end for the Lamba.  The women were thought to be very beautiful and were prized possessions of the slave traders.  Also, these traders came from three directions.  From the north the Yeke, a Swahili offshoot, raided the Lamba; from the west the Mbunda came.  From the east the Yao, another Swahili offshoot from present-day Malawi, arrived under the captain, Chiwala. 

As if this was not enough for the Lamba, a plague of locusts descended upon them in 1892 eating the crops and leaving the people starving. 

Chiwala came with 350 armed men.  The Lamba, from their stockaded village, tried to defend themselves but after many battles, they were defeated.  Chiwala stayed in Lambaland for many years sending wave after wave of slaves and elephant tusks from the region until nearly all the people and all the elephants had gone.  As a result, he became very rich.  He was eventually caught red-handed by the British and sent to prison.  On release from prison he remained near Ndola, dying in 1913.  (!!!)

Lambaland as shown by CM Doke in 1927

As we know, Lambaland was the copper region of Zambia, so when the British decided to mine in the area, they moved the Lamba people away from the line of rail and the mines into a ‘Native Reserve’.  After all they had gone through – 40 years of being raided by slave traders – this move from their ancestral land was almost the last straw. 

The British thought that the people were just lazy because the Lamba did not want to work in the mines.  I doubt that the British had any compassion for the Lamba and their recent history.  The Lamba though, proved resourceful, going back to their roots and became excellent farmers producing food for the workers in the mines. 

Map shown by NHCC, probably around 1970