HADZABE (HADZA) OF TANZANIA
The Hadza, or Hadzabe are a Tanzanian indigenous ethnic group mostly based in southwest Karatu District of Arusha Region. They live around Lake Eyasi in the central Rift Valley and in the neighboring Serengeti Plateau. There are, as of 2015, between 1,200 and 1,300 Hadza people living in Tanzania, however only around 400 Hadza still survive exclusively based on the traditional means of foraging. Additionally, the increasing impact of tourism and encroaching pastoralists pose serious threats to the continuation of their traditional way of life.
Genetically, the Hadza are not closely related to any other people. Once classified among the Khoisan languages, primarily because it has clicks, the Hadza language (Hadzane) is actually thought to be an isolate, unrelated to any other. Hadzane is an entirely oral language, but it is not predicted to be in danger of extinction. UNESCO states that the language is not endangered but vulnerable because most children learn it but the use is restricted to certain areas of life, for example to the home. Hadzane is also considered the most important factor of distinguishing who is and is not actually a part of the Hadza people. In more recent years, many of the Hadza have learned Swahili, the national language of Tanzania, as a second language.
As descendants of Tanzania’s aboriginal, pre-Bantu expansion hunter-gatherer population, they have probably occupied their current territory for thousands of years, with relatively little modification to their basic way of life until the past hundred years. Since the 18th century, the Hadza have come into increasing contact with farming and herding people entering Hadzaland and its vicinity; the interactions were often hostile and caused population decline in the late 19th century. The first European contact and written accounts of the Hadza are from the late 19th century. Since then, there have been many attempts by successive colonial administrations, the independent Tanzanian government, and foreign missionaries to settle the Hadza, by introducing farming and Christianity. These efforts have largely failed, and many Hadza still pursue virtually the same way of life as their ancestors are described as having in early 20th-century accounts. In recent years, they have been under pressure from neighbouring groups encroaching on their land, and also have been affected by tourism and safari hunting.
One telling of Hadza’s oral history divides their past into four epochs, each inhabited by a different culture. According to this tradition, in the beginning of time the world was inhabited by hairy giants called the akakaanebee “first ones” or geranebee “ancient ones”. The akakaanebee did not possess tools or fire; they hunted game by running it down until it fell dead; they ate the meat raw. They did not build houses but slept under trees, as the Hadza do today in the dry season. In older versions of this story, fire was not used because it was physically impossible in the earth’s primeval state, while younger Hadza, who have been to school, say that the akakaanebee simply did not know how.
In the second epoch, the akakaanebee were succeeded by the xhaaxhaanebee “in-between ones”, equally gigantic but without hair. Fire could be made and used to cook meat, but animals had grown more wary of humans and had to be chased and hunted with dogs. The xhaaxhaanebee were the first people to use medicines and charms to protect themselves from enemies and initiated the epeme rite. They lived in caves. The third epoch was inhabited by the people of hamakwanebee “recent days”, who were smaller than their predecessors. They invented bows and arrows, and containers for cooking, and mastered the use of fire. They also built huts like those of Hadza today. The people of hamakwabee were the first of the Hadza ancestors to have contact with non-foraging people, with whom they traded for iron to make knives and arrowheads. They also invented the gambling game lukuchuko. The fourth epoch continues today and is inhabited by the hamayishonebee “those of today”. When discussing the hamayishonebee epoch, people often mention specific names and places, and can approximately say how many generations ago events occurred.
Archaeology and genetic history
The Hadza are not closely related to any other people. The Hadza language was once classified with the Khoisan languages because it has clicks; however, since there is no evidence they are related, Hadza is now considered an isolate. Genetically, the Hadza do not appear to be particularly closely related to Khoisan speakers: even the Sandawe, who live just 150 kilometres (93 mi) away, diverged from the Hadza more than 15,000 years ago. Genetic testing also suggests significant admixture has occurred between the Hadza and Bantu, while minor admixture with the Nilotic and Cushitic-speaking populations has occurred in the last few thousand years. Today, a few Hadza women marry into neighbouring groups such as the Bantu Isanzu and the Nilotic Datoga, but these marriages often fail and the woman and her children return to the Hadza. In previous decades, rape or capture of Hadza women by outsiders seems to have been common. During a famine in 1918–20 some Hadza men were reported as taking Isanzu wives.
The Hadza’s ancestors have probably lived in their current territory for tens of thousands of years. Hadzaland is just 50 kilometres (31 mi) from Olduvai Gorge, an area sometimes called the “Cradle of Mankind” because of the number of hominin fossils found there, and 40 kilometres (25 mi) from the prehistoric site of Laetoli. Archaeological evidence suggests that the area has been continuously occupied by hunter gatherers much like the Hadza since at least the beginning of the Later Stone Age, 50,000 years ago. Although the Hadza do not make rock art today, they consider several rock art sites within their territory, probably at least 2,000 years old, to have been created by their ancestors, and their oral history does not suggest they moved to Hadzaland from elsewhere.
Until about 500 BCE, Tanzania was exclusively occupied by hunter-gatherers akin to the Hadza. The first agriculturalists to enter the region were Cushitic-speaking cattle herders from the Horn of Africa. Around 500 CE the Bantu expansion reached Tanzania, bringing populations of farmers with iron tools and weapons. The last major ethnic group to enter the region were Nilotic pastoralists who migrated south from Sudan in the 18th century. Each of these expansions of farming and herding peoples displaced earlier populations of hunter-gatherers, who would have generally been at a demographic and technological disadvantage, and vulnerable to the loss of environment resources (i.e., foraging areas and habitats for game) as a result of the spread of farmland and pastures.Therefore, groups such as the Hadza and the Sandawe are remnants of indigenous hunter-gatherer populations that were once much more widespread, and are under pressure from the continued expansion of agriculture into areas which they have traditionally occupied.
Farmers and herders appeared in the vicinity of Hadzaland relatively recently. The pastoralist Iraqw and Datoga were both forced to migrate into the area by the expansion of the Maasai, the former in the 19th century and the latter in the 1910s. The Isanzu, a Bantu farming people, began living just south of Hadzaland around 1850. The Hadza also have contact with the Maasai and the Sukuma west of Lake Eyasi. The Hadza’s interaction with many of these peoples has been hostile. In particular, the upheavals caused by the Maasai expansion in the late 19th century caused a decline in the Hadza population. Pastoralists often killed Hadza as reprisals for the “theft” of livestock, since the Hadza did not have the notion of animal ownership, and would hunt them as they would wild game. The Isanzu were also hostile to the Hadza at times, and may have captured them for the slave trade until as late as the 1870s (when it was halted by the German colonial government). Later interaction was more peaceable, with the two peoples sometimes intermarrying and residing together, though as late as 1912, the Hadza were reported as being “ready for war” with the Isanzu. The Sukuma and the Hadza had a more amiable relationship; the Sukuma drove their herds and salt caravans through Hadza lands, and exchanged old metal tools, which the Hadza made into arrowheads, for the right to hunt elephants in Hadzaland. The general attitude of neighbouring agro-pastoralists towards the Hadza was prejudicial; they viewed them as backwards, not possessing a “real language”, and made up of the dispossessed of neighbouring tribes that had fled into the forest out of poverty or because they committed a crime. Many of these misconceptions were transmitted to early colonial visitors to the region who wrote about the Hadza.
In the late 19th century, European powers claimed much of the African continent as colonies, a period known as the Scramble for Africa. The Hadza became part of German East Africa, though at the time the colony was proclaimed there is no evidence that Hadzaland had ever been visited by Europeans. The earliest mention of the Hadza in a written account is in German explorer Oscar Baumann‘s Durch Massailand zur Nilquelle (1894). The Hadza hid from Baumann and other early explorers, and their descriptions are based on second hand accounts.
The first Europeans to report actually meeting the Hadza are Otto Dempwolff and Erich Obst. The latter lived with them for eight weeks in 1911. German Tanganyika came under British control at the end of the First World War (1917), and soon after the Hadza were written about by British colonial officer F. J. Bagshawe. The accounts of these early European visitors portray the Hadza at the beginning of the 20th century as living in much the same way as they do today. Early on Obst noted a distinction between the ‘pure’ Hadza (that is, those subsisting purely by hunting and gathering) and those that lived with the Isanzu and practised some cultivation.
The foraging Hadza exploited the same foods using many of the same techniques they do today, though game was more plentiful because farmers had not yet begun directly encroaching on their lands. Some early reports describe the Hadza as having chiefs or big men, but they were probably mistaken; more reliable accounts portray early 20th century Hadza as egalitarian, as they are today. They also lived in similarly sized camps, used the same tools, built houses in the same style and had similar religious beliefs.
The British colonial government tried to make the Hadza settle down and adopt farming in 1927, the first of many government attempts to do so. The British tried again in 1939, as did the independent Tanzanian government in 1965 and 1990, and various foreign missionary groups since the 1960s. Despite numerous attempts, some forceful, all have largely failed. Generally, the Hadza willingly settle for a time while the provided food stocks last, then leave and resume their traditional hunter-gatherer life when the provisions run out; few have adopted farming as a way of life. Disease is also a problem – because their communities are sparse and isolated, few Hadza are immune to common infectious diseases such as measles, which thrive in sedentary communities, and several settlement attempts ended with outbreaks of illness resulting in many deaths, particularly of children.
Of the four villages built for the Hadza since 1965, two (Yaeda Chini and Munguli) are now inhabited by the Isanzu, Iraqw and Datoga. Another, Mongo wa Mono, established in 1988, is sporadically occupied by Hadza groups who stay there for a few months at a time, either farming, foraging or to utilize the food given to them by missionaries. At the fourth village, Endamagha (also known as Mwonyembe), the school is attended by Hadza children, but they account for just a third of the students there. Numerous attempts to convert the Hadza to Christianity have also been largely unsuccessful.
Tanzanian farmers began moving into the Mangola area to grow onions in the 1940s, but came in small numbers until the 1960s. The first German plantation in Hadzaland was established in 1928, and later three European families settled in the area. Since the 1960s, the Hadza have been visited regularly by anthropologists, linguists, geneticists and other researchers
In recent years, the Hadza’s territory has seen increasing encroachment from neighbouring peoples. The western Hadza lands are now a private hunting reserve, and the Hadza are officially restricted to a reservation within the reserve and prohibited from hunting there. The Yaeda Valley, long uninhabited due to the tsetse fly, is now occupied by Datooga herders, who are clearing the Hadza lands on either side of the now fully settled valley for pasture for their goats and cattle. The Datooga hunt out the game, and their land clearing destroys the berries, tubers, and honey that the Hadza rely on, along with watering holes for their cattle causing the shallow watering holes the Hadza rely on to dry up. Most Hadzabe are no longer able to sustain themselves in the bush without supplementary food such as ugali.
After documentaries on the Hadza on PBS and the BBC in 2001, the Mang’ola Hadza have become a tourist attraction. Although on the surface this may appear to help the Hadzabe, much of the money from tourism is allocated by government offices and tourism companies rather than going to the Hadzabe. Money given directly to Hadzabe also contributes to alcoholism and deaths from alcohol poisoning have recently become a severe problem, further contributing to the loss of cultural knowledge.
In 2007, the local government controlling the Hadza lands adjacent to the Yaeda Valley leased the entire 6,500 square kilometres (2,500 sq mi) of land to the Al Nahyan royal family of the United Arab Emirates for use as a “personal safari playground”. Both the Hadza and Datooga were evicted, with some Hadza resisters imprisoned. However, after protests from the Hadza and negative coverage in the international press, the deal was rescinded.