Entries in indigenous Hadzabe tribes (1)


A Day in the Life of the Hadzabe Tribe


I wasn't sure I had it in me to write about this.  My initial return home from Africa after our 18 days trip left me more than jet lag. I have needed time to digest all that I have experienced and still floats in my consciousness. There are the interactions of meeting men, women and children from three very different indigenous tribes in Tanzania. I have been told there are more than 120 tribes that coexist there.  Some haven't changed their ways in hundreds of thousands of years. One such tribe is the Hadzabe or Hadza that we had the privilege to meet. They are the last tribe of bushmen in Africa living in Tanzania, whose survival still depends solely on hunting and gathering in their immediate environment. They are supreme archers that hunt in the bush with their dogs for game, both large and small. Wort hogs, birds, baboons ,antelope..... No creature survives at the hands of these bushmen living off the earth. After five, six months of living in their camp they must move on so there is time for the earth and animals to be replenished. I dare not tell them that I have a daily ritual back home of feeding the birds. 

When we first arrived on the scene of their bush, I thought I stepped into a National Geographic Magazine. It was 9 am on a warm 85 degree day and two seperate campfires were going.  One camp had only women from young mothers to a 95 year old and young children of every age. The other camp was surrounded by only men who had been up all night after a very successful kill at midnight of three wort hogs. Their fresh hunt was in clear evidence everywhere as we walked past trees with hanging animal heads still dripping fresh blood; meat strung up on twine to air dry for jerky and lots of raw meat, kabob style, on sticks over the open fire. Men wore baboon skins slung around them with tails hanging. The women draped themselves in layers of fabric that double later during the day as satchels for the root vegetables that they forage under the deep, dry earth. Their tools are their hands and sharply pointed wooden sticks that serve to pierce and pitch away at the dirt.. It was easy to identify the chief amongst the group of fifteen men as he wore a beaded headband. He was surprisingly handsome with high cheekbones, clear eyes and skin and an intensely penetrating look of a responsible leader with a kind temperment. I thought he could easily be in a leading role of a Hollywood film. The infamous film "The Gods Must Be Crazy" was inspired by the bushmen tribe. Unlike many other tribes, the Hadzabes are not polygamist. The chief's wife was also easy to identify as she wore a beaded headband which signified her status amongst the women. We discovered quickly that the Hadzabe tribe still speak the ancient click language. Other than body language, we were at the fortuante mercy of a young man Thomas who had some personal history with the Hadzabe tribe and could interpret for us.

We learned that the Hadzabe own no material possessions other than what they make with their own hands from the environment they dwell in. We were told that because they chose to own nothing, they live without worry and are therefore free. They care for no things; thus, there is nothing to gain or to lose, nothing to covet nor protect or insure. Their homes are built from the materials that surround them and resemble oversized bee hives. Their earthen floors are covered with the skins from their kills. They derive their medicines from the trees and local plants. They are much like our indigenous Native Americans who held no ownership of the Mother Earth and took only what they needed. The Hadzabes have been squeezed out of most lands in Tanzania. They are not warriors of people, nor herders of goats and cattle, nor agriculturalists. They have easily been overtaken through the centuries and pushed further into isolation by other warring tribes such as The Masai who migrated long ago from Northern Africa with their massive herds of goat and cattle..

Throughout our trip here to Tanzania, Tom and I found spontaneous opportunities to offer many goods that we had brought from the states. Reading glasses, colored pencils, pens, paper, frisbees, t shirts, flashlites and batteries.  We found that what we thought we might present to them as gifts had no value to them . It didn't feel right for Tom and I to visit them without offering some gesture of appreciation. At our insistence, we were advised that bringing buckets of fresh water, a sack of freshly milled corn and metal arrowheads that were made by a local blacksmith from the Datoqa tribe would be highly regarded. The local Datoqa tribe blacksmith and Hadzabe chief bartered meat for arrowheads. These arrowheads would later be dipped by the Hadzabes in poisonous sap from a local tree and then attached to the arrows that are used in their hunts. After spending a day foraging with the woman while Tom was out on a hunt with the younger men, we presented our gifts to them. The chief was so impressed with our generosity that we were invited to stay with his clan for a full month! While Tom was still licking his chops from earlier tastings of barbequed wort hog, this non meat eater graciously declined and headed toward the Land Rover.

More in the coming days.....