The Hadza Tribe of Tanzania

Millett, Katherine

2001

Book ID 479

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Millett, Katherine The Hadza Tribe of Tanzania, 2001
Extract Author: Katherine Millett and Thomson Safaris
Page Number: 1
Extract Date: 2001

The Hadza Tribe of Tanzania

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.

Extract ID: 3114

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See also

Millett, Katherine The Hadza Tribe of Tanzania, 2001
Extract Author: Katherine Millett and Thomson Safaris
Page Number: 2
Extract Date: 2001

The Hadza Tribe of Tanzania Hunting

A guest article

Men and boys hunt with bows and arrows, and they almost always hunt alone. Women and girls do not hunt. By the age of 10, an Eastern Hadza boy will have made himself a sturdy bow and a set of arrows to kill hyrax, rabbits, squirrels and birds.

Men tend to make long bows, about six feet in length, which are exceptionally powerful and heavy to pull. By testing several Hadza bows in the field using a spring balance, Woodburn determined that more than 100 pounds of force were required to draw an average bow fully. He concluded that Hadza hunters prefer powerful bows to accurate ones, which matched his observation that the Hadza hunt from very close range, 25 to 50 yards to shoot impala, zebra, eland or giraffe. Some Hadza also eat predators, including lion, leopard, and other wild cats, or perhaps scavengers like jackal, hyena and vulture, but they draw the line at reptiles like monitors, snakes and lizards. They use poisoned arrow tips to hunt large animals. Once a beast has been wounded, the hunter waits a few hours for the poison to act and then tracks the wounded animal until it dies.

Most meat is eaten where it falls. Hunters take each day as it comes and generally hunt alone to feed themselves. They take meat back to camp only if there is a surplus and they feel like making the effort. Woodburn's articles are laced with references to the laid-back ways of the Hadza, who "meet their nutritional needs easily without much effort, much forethought, much equipment, or much organization." Most men do not hunt large game at all, he notes, but content themselves with vegetable foods and small animals. Far from resenting these non-hunters, the few big-game hunters readily share meat with them as well as with women and children. The tenet "from each according to his ability to each according to his need" seems to apply to the Hadza. Good hunters hunt, and hungry people eat. Naturally a good hunter will be favored by women and will tend to be welcome, perhaps even pampered, when he joins a camp, but the interactions of Hadza people seem remarkably free of jealousy, resentment, elitism, tyranny, or any concept of private property. (See more on this under the heading "Social Life" below.)At about age 45 men stop hunting, but they continue to carry their bows for the rest of their lives.

Woodburn documented only a single situation in which Hadza men hunt as a group. They occasionally go out at night, encircle a troop of baboons, and kill them all. How similar this seems to the behavior of chimpanzees observed in Gombe National Park and the Mahale Mountains, who occasionally form hunting parties to go on binges and wipe out large numbers of red colobus monkeys. Neither the Hadza nor the chimpanzees really need the meat they get from these encounters, so their violent clashes with members of another species must be about something else. (See Thomson Safaris' May newsletter for more information on chimpanzees.)

Extract ID: 3115

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See also

Millett, Katherine The Hadza Tribe of Tanzania, 2001
Page Number: 3
Extract Date: 2001

Gathering

Gathering begins early in Hadza childhood, when babes help their mothers, big brothers and sisters pick berries, dig edible roots, and gather seeds and pulp from baobab trees. This food supplies 80 percent of the normal diet by weight. Hadza people obtain the remaining 20 percent of their food from meat brought back to camp and wild bee honey taken from hives in the bush.

The Hadza are remarkably unconcerned about food conservation. When they dig up roots, they leave no part of the plant in place to sprout again. When they harvest honey, the seldom bother to seal the broken honeycomb with mud or a stone, which would encourage the bees to return and make more honey. They may know how to dry or smoke meat, but they tend to avoid the effort. Instead, they live for the present.

Extract ID: 3116

external link

See also

Millett, Katherine The Hadza Tribe of Tanzania, 2001
Page Number: 4
Extract Date: 2001

Gambling Game

To while away the afternoon in the manner of many Hadza men, follow these simple instructions:

1. Find one to three other players.

2. Make one large disc from the bark of a Baobab tree.

3. Each player makes a smaller disc from bark or wood. (Tops and bottoms of discs must appear different.)

4. Choose one person, usually the loser of the last game or a newcomer to the group, and give all the discs to him or her.

5. This person piles the little discs on top of the big one and throws the whole stack at a tree. The discs fall on the ground and roll about.

6. The winner is the player whose disc is the only one to land the same way "up" as the large disc. (Keep throwing until only one player's disc matches the master disc.)

7. Bet any valuable thing you own on winning this game. Hadza men lose their bows, arrows and food this way all the time, according to James Woodburn.

Extract ID: 3117

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See also

Millett, Katherine The Hadza Tribe of Tanzania, 2001
Page Number: 5
Extract Date: 2001

Dress and Ornaments

Hadza women wear three pieces of clothing. They make skirts from the skins of female impala, softened with fat and rubbed until supple, sometimes decorated with beads, cowrie shells and bells. The skirt covers the buttocks and hips. A second garment, made of cloth and beads for a married woman, or strings and beads for an unmarried woman, hangs in front. The upper garment, also made from impala hide, can be used for warmth or to carry berries, babies, firewood or meat.

Men and boys of the Hadza tribe wear the skin of a small animal as a loincloth, its tail hanging down between their legs. The hide is held in place by a leather belt which may also hold a sheathed knife.

Men, women and children wear sandals to protect them from the thorns on the savanna. These were traditionally made from zebra or wildebeeste hide, but soles made from old car tires are now more popular.

Extract ID: 3118

external link

See also

Millett, Katherine The Hadza Tribe of Tanzania, 2001
Page Number: 6
Extract Date: 2001

Social Life

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Hadza people generally come and go as they like. They may travel alone, join a camp, move to a different camp, or gravitate to a small area and live there with any group that happens to come along. The major exception is demonstrated by married couples, who stay together an average of 20 years and tend to live with the wife's mother. If husband and wife live apart for two weeks or more, they are likely to be considered unmarried. Spouses of either gender may abandon the marriage and seek a new partner by reverting to the dress of unmarried members of the tribe.

A camp has no organized leadership and no sense of itself as a permanent group. The idea of private property must seem absurd to people who carry everything they own on their backs or heads. The Hadza similarly disdain the concept of private territory. They wander and settle where they can. If some other tribe takes over a site they have been accustomed to using, they are far more likely to move on than create conflict. Even within the Eastern Hadza tribe, Woodburn noted, dissidents are more likely to leave a camp than face a conflict. Conflict is often concealed behind ecological excuses, such as an announcement that the berries are better or the game more plentiful somewhere else.

Extract ID: 3119
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