The Hadza
Michael Ellis

On the shores of Lake Eyasi in the Great Rift Valley of Tanzania, four of the major languages groups of Africa intersect. The Bantu, Nilotic Cushitic and the Khoisan. The latter is the famous click language of the so called Bushman of the kalihari.
Most Americans know this tongue from the movie The Gods Must be Crazy.
This may be the most ancient language still spoken on Earth.

The Hadza is a small tribe of 400 individuals who speak this language and still maintain the traditional ways of gathering resources. They are often referred to as the last Stone Age tribe in Tanzania. I had the immense pleasure recently to accompany four of the men on a morning hunt for game.

Almost every animal is considered food. Since the area we were in was developed the game was mostly small animals. Vervet monkeys and baboons are first choice but mice, hares, hyrax, and any bird will do, but no reptiles are eaten. The women and children stayed behind. They would forage later in the afternoon for the roots, berries and small animals that actually sustained the tribe. Like most primitive cultures the burden of food gathering is mostly on the women. Meat is an uncertain and limited treat.

I was amazed at the hunters’ skill in finding a group of vervets. These little primates knew the Hadza by sight. In game parks they freely leap about but here they kept perfectly still, high in the palm fronds. Not moving one bit saved most of them. One black faced vervet monkey was killed with a bow and arrow. I enjoy watching these monkeys so it was difficult to witness one of my closer relatives killed.

We walked quickly back to the women where a fire was built by friction. The small monkey was barely cooked and then every part eaten by the entire tribe of a dozen people. No food is wasted here.

Every person on earth is related to the Hadza. Not only by the direct genetic connection to our kin in Africa but by their daily method of survival. All humans were once hunter/ gatherers. To see these ancient skills practiced was an honor.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.



Posted on

November 7, 2010