The Ju/’Hoansi of the Kalahari

Topics: Indigenous peoples, South Africa, Botswana Pages: 5 (1682 words) Published: July 30, 2010
The San people of the Kalahari Desert were ‘discovered’ by the outside world in the 1950s. The San are one of the oldest indigenous populations on earth. They have been around for 20, 000 years or more, with a history of living in small family bands. They were a people that never cared about riches or personal possessions as everything was shared among their people. Their populations survived through hunting and gathering in the desert and semi-desert environment of the Kalahari. Things have changed with the advent of the modern world and “civilization”. Today, most San live scattered over many Southern African countries, far away from their original traditional hunting grounds. Some of them are city “squatters”, some farm laborers, and some have been resettled by their respective Governments to specific ghettos. The struggles that they endure have allowed them to fall into a passive existence unlike their traditional hard working nature, and many of them have been forgotten by greater society. Only one tribe continues to occupy their ancestral land; the Ju/’hoansi. Due to war, displacement and the introduction of drugs and alcohol, their societies have continued a downward spiral into poverty and despair. Attempts have been made for the San people to become self sufficient in the modern world. These programs have been tried, including the Nyae Nyae Farmers’ Collective, and they have failed. This paper will examine the current issues of the San people, highlighting the Ju/’hoansi tribe, and their current struggle for survival. This paper will also suggest new ways in which the San people can retain their indigenous knowledge in the modern world, develop new ways of conflict resolution and indigenous identity. Other indigenous groups from around the world will also be compared and highlighted to the San people in order to prescribe new ways in which the San can become a fully functioning society within the global community. The Dobe area where the Ju/’hoansi traditionally occupy is a cluster of ten waterholes north and south of the Aha Hills in the northwest Kalahari Desert. About one third of the Dobe area lies across the boarder into Nambia. Since the building of a boarder fence by South Africa in 1965, the western part of the Dobe area has been cut off to the traditionally hunting a gathering society of the Ju/’hoansi. Now, there are only 1,400 Ju/'hoansi left, living in about 36 villages in the Dobe area of the Kalahari. The Ju/’hoansi were virtually left alone by the outside world until the occupation of Namibia by the South African army in 1915 and the resistance against South Africa in 1966. The South Africans knew that the Ju/’hoansi were excellent trackers and knew the bush intimately, so they were eagerly recruited to the army. The army changed the very foundation of Ju/'hoansi culture forever. With the introduction of money came the bottle stores and the opportunity for businessmen to make easy money by selling liquor to the Ju/’hoansi. Their delicate social system could not withstand the constant warfare and exploitation and ever since their way of life has been severely altered into a state of despondency and marginalization. Unlike most of the San in Southern Africa, the Ju/'hoansi have always managed to maintain part of their pride and traditional lifestyle, despite being deprived of their hunting and gathering way of life. In the late seventies and eighties life in the Nyae Nyae area of the Dobe was becoming increasingly dysfunctional, and the people were becoming more aware that if they did not re-occupy their traditional lands that they would lose it to the Nature Conservation one day. Drawing upon private donations and international agencies, the Ju/’hoansi were able to create the Nyae Nyae Farmers’ Cooperative (NNFC) to drill boreholes and purchase small herds of cattle at subsidized prices to other reformed indigenous groups in the area. Ju/'hoansi worked for their own people...

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