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Ju/’Hoansi. Hunting and Gathering in a Modern World. SO …Where are the Ju/’Hoansi?. Populations in South Africa Specifically: Botswana and Namibia The overall environment of South Africa is extremely diverse with many different ecosystems

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ju hoansi


Hunting and Gathering in a

Modern World

so where are the ju hoansi
SO…Where are the Ju/’Hoansi?
  • Populations in South Africa
    • Specifically: Botswana and Namibia
  • The overall environment of South Africa is extremely diverse with many different ecosystems
  • Ranges from tropical forests to vast stretches of desert.
  • The Ju/’Hoansi occupy primarily the scrubland that makes up the interior of South Africa
  • Remember: When we’re talking about South Africa, we’re talking about the geographical area, not necessarily the country.
  • Very diverse flora and fauna as well
history since contact
History Since Contact
  • The Ju/’Hoansi are just part of a broader group of people known collectively as the San
  • Originally (just before contact) the San numbered around 300k
  • They are generally considered to be some of the oldest people (genetically) on the planet
    • Many people can most likely trace their genetic lineage back to early groups in the same area
history since contact4
History Since Contact
  • Original contact occurred with the Dutch
  • Status Quo for European Contact: Population decimated
    • Not only due to disease
    • Conflict and warfare between indigenous groups that was initiated by colonial intervention
  • Traditionally, all of the Ju/’Hoansi’s food is gathered from the surrounding area.
  • Various nuts, berries and tubers make up much of the Ju/’Hoansi diet
  • Mental maps of the local resources are used both to gather in the immediate vicinity as well as to plan where to go next
    • The resources in a particular spot will be used up fairly quickly
    • Have to have time to re-grow before being harvested again
    • The group will move when all of the local resources have been exploited
  • Just how do you transport all this stuff back home?
  • Large piece of cloth (kaross) is used for many different purposes
    • Of course, transporting food and other items
    • Carrying children
    • Blanket as well (can get cold at night where the Ju/’Hoansi live)
  • The only other thing needed for gathering is a digging stick
    • Just a strong length of wood
    • Used to dig up roots, etc
    • Multi-purpose as well
      • Used for load bearing and walking as well
  • Meat not a huge part of the Ju/’Hoansi diet
  • But quite valuable both for the protein it provides and the social bonds it reinforces
  • Very complex and precise system of distributing the meat to everyone in the group
    • Goes to the egalitarianism we will talk about later
  • A relatively wide variety of hunting tools are used by the Ju/’Hoansi:
    • Knives
    • Bow and Arrow
      • Poison used on the tips
    • Spears
    • Rope for larger game and snares
    • Hooked implements for hunting smaller burrowing animals
  • However, despite these tools the most important part of hunting for the Ju/’Hoansi is a well developed set of tracking skills
  • Very important for saving energy and for finding the right type of game
  • When an animal is hit by a poison arrow it may run for several miles before falling
    • Have to be able to find your kill in the scrub brush
egalitarianism and organization
Egalitarianism and Organization
  • Modesty and humility are the key phrases to remember whenever we’re talking about the interpersonal relationships among the Ju/’Hoansi
  • No person is allowed to think of themselves as better than the rest of the group
    • Even if they may be especially adept at a particular skill, such as hunting
egalitarianism and organization11
Egalitarianism and Organization
  • In regards to hunting and the distribution of meat the maintenance of egalitarianism is accomplished by insulting the quality, size, etc. of the animal
  • Even if it may be a large and impressive kill this prevents the hunter from becoming too proud of himself and thinking he is deserving of higher status or treatment
  • This derogatory tone persists throughout the entire meal and even afterwards
  • VERY important social leveling mechanism
  • Bands of Ju/’Hoansi consist of 10-30 individuals
  • All related to a small group of elders that make up the nucleus of the camp
    • These elders make many of the decisions about who can have access to certain resources on ‘their’ land and when
    • Almost never refuse access
  • Access to territory (owned by different families) can be accomplished in only two ways:
    • Marriage between two families
    • Birth
      • Which gives you access to your parents land
  • Marriage
    • Arranged by the parents at a very young age
    • Begin a long term system of exchange between the two families
    • Strict regulations about who can marry who
      • No incest
    • At a young age boys may go to live with their arranged brides family for many years
      • Long evaluation period
    • Divorce also acceptable and is in fact common
  • Grass Huts
  • Circular arrangement
  • Modest and quick construction because of the focus on mobility
  • Special structures are also built to store meat so scavengers can’t get at it and to prevent children from touching hunting weapons (which have poison on them)
  • Sometimes a fire pit will be the only recognizable sign of a camp
    • Used only during longer movements as a place to rest for the night
  • Ju/’Hoansi bands have often been called Units of Sharing
    • Because all resources are shared equally and without this sharing the camp would fall apart due to lack of resources for some members
  • Very talkative group of people
    • Spans a great many topics and will go on and on for hours
    • Of course, can lead to arguments
      • May lead to fights or leaving to visit other family and cool off
    • Songs and story telling and important social bonding behaviors
    • Especially important for the elders of the group
  • Conflicts within the camp
    • Three separate levels of conflict among the Ju/’Hoansi:
      • Arguing
        • May be the point at which a disagreement begins to escalate during a regular conversation
        • Typically will end here
      • Fighting
        • Can occur if either party is offended enough
        • Can be male or female participants
        • Short lived before the rest of the band stops it
      • Deadly Combat
        • Typically occurs only with older men who have access to hunting weapons
        • Very rare occurrence but it does happen
  • There are two primary types of relationships among the Ju/’Hoansi:
    • Joking Relationship
      • Relaxed and familiar
      • Typically expressed towards:
        • Peers
        • Grandparents
    • Avoidance Relationship
      • Respectful and refined
      • Typically expressed towards:
        • Parents
        • In-laws
  • Hxaro Exchange
    • This is how the Ju/’Hoansi perform constant maintenance on their relationships
    • The most important tool for maintaining stability
    • Helps to circulate possessions around the camp
      • Important for an egalitarian society
      • No one has something of value for too long
  • Important distinction between other types of exchange:
    • The exchange of items is not immediate
  • Anything except for people and food can be exchanged
    • Every Ju/’Hoansi person can participate
  • Also important to note that our ideas of value do not apply
    • Any item, regardless of its perceived value in comparison to the other object given, can be used to return the exchange
  • The important part is that a return exchange is occurring
  • Forms social ties to other groups and between families
  • No common story about how the world began
    • Just a general story about a time when all of the animals and people were the same and lived together in a single village
  • Sometimes a higher god will be represented by an elephant
  • A lesser god is sometimes spoken of and is typically regarded as a trickster
    • Common theme in many religions
  • Natural illness and adversity is explained by the actions of ancestral ghosts
    • Called Gangwasi
  • Are the ghosts of the dead relatives
    • The desire of these dead relatives to return to the world of the living compels them to cause misfortune
  • In order to please the ghosts individuals must act a certain way
    • Be peaceful, eat a certain way, and basically obey all the social norms we’ve been discussing
    • Yet another excellent social leveling mechanism
  • Healing powers are also possessed by many individuals within Ju/’Hoansi society
  • Apprenticeship system in which the ‘nugget’ learns from the master in a trance-like state
  • Very painful ordeal
  • One of the most important ritual events is the !Kia dance
    • Takes place all night
    • Used to both heal and unify the camp
    • Stress relief valve as well
modern problems
Modern Problems
  • As with many smaller hunter gatherer societies, particularly in Africa, the group faces pressures from both the government as well as from a changing environment
  • Intervention (perceived as help) of the various governments involved only served to undermine the Ju/’Hoansi way of life further
    • Became dependent upon outside aid rather than their traditional subsistence patterns
modern problems26
Modern Problems
  • Of course these aid programs were eventually shut down
  • Left the Ju/’Hoansi with no way to cope to their new more modern environment
  • Children were forced into government schools that forbade them from speaking their own language
    • Hallmark of one society trying to erase another
modern problems27
Modern Problems
  • Moved into crowded locations with no way to maintain their traditional ways
  • Resulted in idleness
    • And this in turn resulted in a rise in alcoholism and other addictions unknown to the San in general just decades ago
  • The unsanitary and crowded conditions, and proximity to outsiders, resulted in an outbreak of HIV/AIDS
    • Many believe it is only a matter of time before this becomes a more widespread problem for the San population
modern problems28
Modern Problems
  • However, we can end on a more upbeat note!
  • How unusual!
  • The San still rely on a very egalitarian system of making decisions
    • Takes a long time to come to a consensus but it is still done
  • Sharing of food and the exchange of possessions between families and individuals is still very prevalent amongst the San and the Ju/’Hoansi specifically.