San Bushmen take the long way home
What do you do with the oldest people in the world? Who are learning new ways to survive in changing circumstances, proving willing to adapt and sustain themselves however they can? But who are unwilling to be moved off ancestral lands they have occupied for tens of thousands of years?
For an answer you can go back as far as 1984 to John Marshall's Death Blow to the Bushmen
(Cultural Survival). The plan for forcible removal did not begin in Botswana, but in Namibia next door. The survival of the San Bushmen (who go by many names, among them "Ju/wasi" - link
) was already made of thin cloth even then. Remove any of the strands and the thing falls apart. As Marshall wrote over twenty years ago:The people in the
[Ju/wasi] communities cannot survive by cattle husbandry, gardening, or hunting or gathering alone, or on cash - even with high army salaries. Their survival - like almost everyone in Namibia - depends on a mixed economy in which subsistence agriculture is combined with wage work. Cattle are the core of the subsistence which the people in the communities have developed to replace hunting and gathering and reduce their near complete and debilitating dependence on cash and welfare.
At the end of the article are portions of speeches by Kxao Demi and /Xaesce G/=oma (the strange usages of script are a hallmark of the click languages of the San). Living by their own choices, these people are honorable and proud. Consigned by the choices of others to camps they rightly term "places of death," they are demeaned and destroyed. As the Ju/wasi farmer says, they cannot survive deprived of "water we can reach with our hands, reach with our shovels - our water, in truth." They wish to stay, as one leader says, "where God himself made the water."
Now the same process begun in Namibia a quarter-century ago rolls inexorably forward in Botswana. Though not without a fight. For an update, the Associated Press turns to our reliable reporter in the field, Sello Motseta:Botswana Bushmen fear returning to Kalahari reserve despite winning landmark court order
(International Herald Tribune)
January 15, 2007
. . . [The Botswana High Court] ruled that the Bushmen have the right to hunt and gather in the reserve, and should not have to apply for permits to enter.
The government has said that only the 189 people who filed the lawsuit would be given automatic right of return with their children — short of the 2,000 the Basarwa say want to go home.
Along with the restrictions on domestic animals and water, they will also not be allowed to build permanent structures. Hunters will have to apply for special permits.
The government shut the main well in 2002 and water resources are scarce.
It's as if the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled Hopi tribespeople could make their homes in the Grand Canyon, and the U.S. government said any that took the opportunity would have to live there as their ancestors had a millennium ago...
The article also mentions that 23 tribesmen, who tried to return in 2005, were prevented from re-entering the Central Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Game Reserve by a hail of rubber bullets. This, along with their experience a week ago of being chased off by the government's officers - not to mention the process by which they were originally expelled - certainly explains the fear.
According to Aaron Glantz, that fear has been overcome.Botswana's Bushmen Return to Native Land
by Aaron Glantz (OneWorld)
Jan. 17, 2007Tribal Bushmen began returning to their ancestral lands inside Botswana's largest game reserve this weekend, despite what their supporters describe as a heavy police presence and attempts to persuade them to stay in relocation camps.
"We're very much hoping that doesn't tip over into an intimidating situation," said Miriam Ross of the London-based rights group Survival International, which has supported the local tribesmen in their efforts to regain access to their land...
[Continued in the post above this one...]
Home for the Holidays
Holiday (Video) - Green Day
4 min 39 sec - Oct 1, 2005
straight from Google's video cache. Another experiment in blogging by the perpetual newb of the blogosphere has run its course. This Google video, which worked here for awhile, went away, and even replacement Google videos couldn't be made to work. So the experiment has gone to the next level and our source this time is: Holiday video code & video by Green Day | VideoCodeZone.com
. (They don't give you the code, by the way - you've gotta dig for it.) (Or it's from AOL - depending on what I can get to work here on any given day.)
The pertinent lyrics:Hear the drum pounding out of time
Another protestor has crossed the line
To find the money's on the other side
Can I get another amen?
There's a flag wrapped around a score of men
A gag, a plastic bag on a monument
Sums up the power the duopoly's grip has on us. Neither ideology or political party offers answers we can actually use. Each participates in its way in promoting and exporting our values. It's about the imperialism implicit in our nation's Declaration of Independence:We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
It's right there. "All men." Not "all inhabitants of the New World colonies." Everybody. As mandated "by their Creator." This is an exportable ideology. It will lead to crusades and empire. First in the guise of Manifest Destiny: Go West, young man.
Later as Defender of the West:
~O-ver there, o-ver there, send the word, send the word, o-ver there,
That the Yanks are com-ing, the Yanks are com-ing,
The drums rum-tum-ming ev'-ry where
So pre-pare, say a prayer, send the word, send the word to be-ware
We'll be o-ver, we're com-ing o-ver,
And we won't come back 'til it's o-ver O-ver There
Now here we are invading countries which haven't attacked us, occupying them and immediately setting to torturing people and building permanent bases even as we claim to be "liberators." America's empire is the natural successor to its British predecessor.
Our issues, the things important to the health of the people and their nation - these are not located overseas. They're right here. Green Day is right on the money on this one. Most of that album is not about the desert to be found in Iraq, but the desert we have created right here at home.
Deal with it, America.
Seriously, deal with it.
Rough cuts for the San Bushmen
In case anyone might be under the delusion that justice has been served and all is now well with the San:Botswana gives Bushmen tough conditions
by Sello Motseta (Associated Press). . . "The ruling says that we own that land," Junanda Gakelevone of the First People of the Kalahari, which represents the Kalahari Bushmen, told The Associated Press. "We have constitutional rights to stay and occupy that land."
"We are going back to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve with our horses and donkeys," he said. Without motorized transport — which the Bushmen lack — it takes about a week to walk from the main resettlement camp to the reserve.
Botswana‘s government said the Bushmen agreed to move as part of efforts to protect wildlife. Authorities said they compensated the displaced Bushmen for their land, and provided schools, medical facilities and job training in the resettlement centers.
But critics say the crowded resettlement camps encouraged alcoholism, AIDS and prostitution. They say the Bushmen‘s eviction turned a society of proud hunters into communities dependent on food aid and government handouts.
This part of the verdict was welcomed by mining giant De Beers, which controls the diamond mines with the government...
There are only a few of the world's oldest people
left - the article above mentions perhaps 100,000, which is an optimistic estimate. Of them, only a mere 2,000 hope to go back home to the land of their ancestors. Yet Botswana's government says only 189 (and their children) will be allowed to reclaim what that government took from them: their way of life. But even the first twenty of these were chased away by the Government's wildlife officers
when they attempted to enter the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. This week 100 of the dispossessed will try again.
From author Craig Nelson's The Last of the Bushmen
, a sample of the song sung by the Hazda relatives of the Kalahari's nomads, as they dance in a circle:Hamana nale kui,
Nale kui . . .
Hamana nale kui,
Nale kui . . .
Here we go round,
Go round . . .
Here we go round,
Go round . . .
Diamonds in the Rough
The charming creature to the left, resembling a slender elf or hardhatted valkyrie, here being handed a trowel by a native, just might be Sheila Coulson. Who is Sheila Coulson?World’s oldest ritual discovered
by Yngve Vogt (Apollon
/University of Oslo)
The discoverer of what appears to be a 70,000-year-old (or older) ritual, that's who. She is a University of Oslo archaeologist in the Collaborative Programme for Basarwa Research, which is run in cooperation with the University of Botswana. It is hardly a coincidence then that the oldest people in the world inhabit the region around the Tsodilo Hills
- the Kalahari Desert, the Okavango Delta wetlands, the Makgadikgadi Pans. These are the San. Also called the Basarwa, but best known as the Bushmen. None of these names, given to them by other peoples, are free of negative connotations. ("San," for instance, in the Nama language means "outsider," while the term for "real people" is reserved for Nama's speakers, the Khoikhoi, the pastoral cousins of the San.) The San do not possess a name for their people as a whole, but go by the names of their tribes (such as the Ju/'Hoansi and the !Kung). It's all there on Wikipedia, so it must be true.
(The photo above, by the way, actually features Sigrid Staurset and Chief Xhao.)
Other links:Offerings to a Stone Snake Provide the Earliest Evidence of Religion
by JR Minkel (Scientific American)"Python Cave" Reveals Oldest Human Ritual, Scientists Suggest
by Brian Handwerk (National Geographic News)
Meanwhile, the San, driven off their ancestral lands, have been forced to seek redress in Botswana's courts. Miraculously, and contrary to most predictions, they recently won an unexpected victory:Bushmen win the right to go home
by Fred Bridgland (The Times)
From the above article:Stephen Corry, the director of Survival, said: “The court’s ruling is a victory for the Bushmen and for indigenous peoples everywhere in Africa.” The Bushmen and their supporters argued that they were being expelled from the CKGR because the Botswana Government, already rich from the mining of diamonds in the east of the country, wanted to mine new diamond finds there.
Happy though I was to read the above news back in the middle of last month, I suspected the victory might be a hollow one. And maybe it was. Still, good news is good news. Also recommended, by the way: Kalahari Bushmen win land battle
. It's all about the interests of De Beers, I'm afraid. The most ancient people in the world sold into extinction for diamonds to adorn the arm of western civilization.