Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Bushmen

The Bushmen are an incredible African tribe of hunter-gatherers.  Their tribe has a direct lineage for more than 35,000 years to the beginning of homo sapiens.  It is even said that all modern humans may have have a common ancestor in a Bushman from southern Africa.

The most senior Bushman that we met

For thousands of years the Bushmen lived off the land knowing every animal footprint, every root, every watering hole, and how to use everything around them.  They were a nomadic people, who traveled based on the season.  They lived in communities that were tight-knit, based on sharing, and void of almost any inter-community violence.

The senior Bushman digging for a root used to dye animal hides

Sadly, this way of life that continued successfully for so long has been destroyed in the last few hundred years.  Displacement by other African tribes, the arrival of Europeans, domesticated animals, weapons, and alcohol all contributed.  But it was the idea that the Bushmen were animals and not people that encouraged the worst atrocities.  We were told that up until 1996 in South Africa it was still legal to hunt the Bushmen and kill them on the spot.

A Bushman giving her daughter water from an ostrich egg

Near the town of Ghanzi, Botswana we had the chance to meet nine members of the Bushmen tribe in that area.  They no longer hunt and gather or live in the grass huts that housed them for thousands of years, but they do invite visitors to walk with them as they demonstrate their knowledge about hunting and medicinal roots.  It was really interesting to hear them speak in their native click language and to watch them perform several traditional dances around a campfire. 

I think it is terrible the way that these wonderful and gentle people have been treated.  So much of their knowledge and culture has been lost.  Their way of life allowed them to thrive for so long, and it is unfortunate that way of life has almost disappeared.  We were fortunate to have experienced a bit of it when we could.



  1. Loved reading about this. Miss ya'll!

  2. Until 1996? Unbelievable. So fascinating.

    1. I know, shocking and so sad. Hope you are doing well.