Name ID 1145
Millett, Katherine The Hadza Tribe of Tanzania
Extract Author: Katherine Millett and Thomson Safaris
Page Number: 1
Extract Date: 2001
All images and text courtesy and ©2000 Thomson Safaris, Inc.
Trees almost hid the grass huts. The fireplaces were still warm. When Barbara Zucker-Pinchoff held her palm over a circle of rocks, she could feel heat from the embers. The ground was littered with feathers, mostly from guinea fowl. A group of Hadza people had just left the campsite. They had taken all their possessions with them.
Barbara and Barry Zucker-Pinchoff, both doctors from New York City, took their three daughters on a walking safari last year in Tanzania. Barbara told about their experience in Kinbero, "the most remote place I have ever been," camping with a few other Americans, two Tanzanian guides, and several Hadza who had time to sit and chat because they had just killed a giraffe.
About 400 members of the Eastern Hadza tribe (also known as the Tindiga or Kindiga) live in Tanzania today, the only hunter-gatherers who reamain in Africa. It was a mere 12,000 years ago that our ancestors domesticated plants and animals. Until then, hunter-gatherers dominated Africa as they did the rest of the world. Since human beings first appeared in the form of homo habilis two million years ago, according to anthropologist Richard B. Lee, we have been hunter-gatherers for 99 percent of the time. To look at it another way, of the eighty billion people who have walked the earth, 90 percent of them have been hunter-gatherers.
The Hadza hunt game, gather edible plants and honey, and move from place to place whenever the weather changes, or the wild herds migrate, or they just feel like moving. In small groups of about eighteen adults and their children, they pitch camps among the rocks and trees of the dry savanna where they live on 1,000 square miles near Lake Eyasi, a salt lake in northern Tanzania. Every two weeks or so, they move to a new campsite.
At the Pinchoffs' campsite, three Hadza men stopped by to visit and ended up staying three days. Barbara described their first interaction. One of the guides gave the men a cigarette. They took out the tobacco, put it in a pipe, and lit the pipe with fire they started by twirling a wooden firedrill.
It takes less than two hours for Hadza women to build a new camp. They make huts by bending and weaving branches into round structures about six feet high, then covering them with thick clumps of long, golden grass. Or, if the weather is very wet, the women may skip the hut building and choose a dry cave to set up a camp that includes a hearth, cooking vessels, sleeping mats made of animal skins, and tools for sharpening stones and scraping skins. Some rock caves have been used intermittently over thousands of years and are decorated with ancient rock paintings.
Whether they sleep in huts, caves or in the open, the Hadza cover themselves only with thin cloths and rely on fire to keep them warm. It takes them less than 30 seconds to start a fire by rotating wooden firedrills between their palms and creating friction in a hollowed-out scrap of soft wood.
A couple of days later, the Hadza men were sitting at camp when one suddenly called for silence. "He told our guide that he had heard the bird they follow to honey," Barbara said. "The three of them ran up a hill, and a few minutes later we saw smoke. One of them ran down to borrow a big, metal basin from our cook. A while later, they brought it down full of honey and comb. They had wood in their hair, they had been stung in several places, and they were laughing away. Our guide later told us they make money selling honey, but they seemed very happy to share it with us, with no thought of saving it for cash."
The Hadza steadfastly refuse to be "settled" into villages or to adopt the life of sedentary farmers. For seventy years they have resisted efforts by the English colonial government, and later the Tanzanian government, to limit their living space or make them grow crops. From time to time, substantial amounts of money have been spent to move the Hadza into government-built housing and teach them to grow cotton. The Hadza may stay for a short time, while free food is available, but then they return to the bush. The largest resettlement occurred in 1964, when the government of Tanzania provided brick houses, piped water, schools, and a medical clinic, but many of the Hadza got sick or died because of the monotonous diet and the boring lifestyle. By 1979, almost all of them had returned to their old, nomadic ways. The Hadza may be the only tribe in Africa that has never paid taxes.
James Woodburn, an English social anthropologist, studied the 400 Eastern Hadza people intensively from 1958 to 1960 and revisited them frequently in later years. The following information is derived from his numerous published articles.