For centuries, the Chagga have lived on and around the slopes of Kilimanjaro, farming bananas and coffee in villages spread throughout the foothills. Historically the Chagga were organized into multiple clans, each led by its own chief. Occasionally these chiefs would form alliances, even small kingdoms, that bound many different clans together.

The Chagga value education, and are known in Tanzania for their shrewd intelligence. Many of the country’s leading politicians and Traditionally, the Chagga belonged to different clans (groups of people of common descent) ruled bymangis(chiefs). The area was divided into independent chiefdoms. The chiefs sometimes warred with each other. Other times, they formed alliances to try to increase their power. After Tanzania won its independence in 1961, the system of chiefdoms was abolished throughout the country.

The main language spoken by the Chagga people is Kichagga. It has various dialects spoken by Chagga in different regions. Despite these differences in dialect, the Chagga people can understand each another.

Almost all Chagga people also speak KiSwahili, the national language in Tanzania. KiSwahili is the language of instruction in primary schools and is used in the work-place. English is the language of instruction in secondary schools and institutions of higher learning.