A historical account of the origins of the Builsas has been very scanty because of the lack of documentary evidence. We have typically relied on the oral traditions which are not always reliable. It would seem, however, that the Builsas are a recent ethnic group founded long after the Mamprusi, Dagomba and Gonja Kingdoms were founded. Some Bulisa historians have tended to regard the latter half of the seventeenth century as the time that the region of Builsa was founded.
The Bulsa Traditional Area composing of fourteen villages with Sandema as its capital and the largest commercial centre, is almost centrally placed among the ethnic groupings in the Upper East Region. It has a population of well over seven thousand (7000). It is bounded on the north by Kasena and the south by the Mamprusi. The Frafra and the Talensi ethnic groups limit its expansion eastwards and to the west it is bordered by the Wala and Sisala ethnic groups.
Oral tradition has it that the Builsas are sub-component of the family of Great Naa-Gbewaa, the legendry founder of the Mamprusi and Dagbon kingdoms. Legend says that the Builsa areas. was founded by the son of the Nayiri, who was a chief of Nalerigu.
Atuga, the founder of Builsa, it was said, was the son of the then ruling chief of Nalerigu. It would seem, Atuga attempted an usurpation of the throne of his father, who was then old. He was banished from the Mamprusi Kingdom. Tradition further adds that he journeyed west-ward to Walewale, where he felt he was still unsafe as he was within easy reach of his father. He and his followers turning their steps northwest-wards from Walewale, went futher until he crossed the white volta at Kunkwa. At the time, Kunkwa was subdued by the Nayiri and incorporated into the Mamprusi Kingdom. Atuga therefore felt it unwise to remain there and for the next fifty miles or so, he moved on until he came into a low-lying plain where he thought was fertile enough to carry on some agricultural activity. This was later to be known as Kadema.
Legend has it that Atuga had four children (sons) and in his old
age, he decided to make a grand party to name his children. It was said that he killed a cow and after skinning it, he asked his children to chose different parts of the cow and from these parts, their names were derived. The first born took the skin of the cow “ karik “ and Atuga named him Akadem; the second born took the thigh “ wiok” and hence his name “ Awiak”. The third took the chest, “ Sunum” and he was called “ Asandem”, and the last born took the bladder “ Sinsanlink” and Atuga called him “Asiniem”.
It is said that not long after the naming ceremony, Atuga died and his sons decided to settle at different places which were still vacant. The first born, Akadem , decided to occupy their father’s house and named the place after himself. Today, that place or town is called Kadema. The second born, Awiak moved northwards and settled five miles away and called his settlement Wiaga. The third son also went further and founded Sandema, and Asinien settled at a place and called it Siniensi.
These four settlements had humble beginnings and because the area was fertile, agriculture quickly developed and today rice in the Upper Regions is mostly produced in this area. It is not disputed that kadema, Wiaga, Sandema, and Siniensi are the first Builsa settlements to be founded. It is said that there were already Builsas living in the area and there were towns like Kanjarga, fumbisi, Gbedema, Uwasi, Kunkwa, Wiasi, and Doninga. These towns were over-run by the Mamprusi and they were paying tribute to the Nayiri.
Sandema, it would seem, developed military power rapidly and was able to subdue the other villages and made itself the capital and paramountcy of the Builsa Traditional Area. The peace that was prevalent in sandema also drew people of Moshie, Dagomba, Sissala, and Mamprusi origin into the town.
Military strength also won the town fame and a lieutenant of Babatu was beaten and driven away. With this defeat of Babatu, peace returned and food was plentiful and many more strangers came. Today ,in Sandema and the rest of Builsa, there is a festival to commemorate this remarkable achievement of the Builsa people. This is the “ Feok “ Festival celebrated in December of every year.