earlier this week there was an interesting bit of news about a small group of bushmen that won a court battle against the botswana government allowing them to return to their traditional hunting grounds in the central kalahari game reserve. i thought this very interesting on many levels.
most westerners don't know about bushmen at all. bushmen, or san as they are more correctly termed are a group of hunter gatherers that are the origional inhabitants of southern africa. in fact if national geographic is to be believed in their quest to genetically map human migratory routes they are the closest genetically to the origional human beings. it seemed that they stayed more or less in africa while the rest of us wandered off a bit, thereby undergoing certain adaptive changes. i assume the san also changed, but less than the rest of us. the san and the khoi-khoi (or as the first whites in southern africa called them, the hottentots) are both part of a distinct racial group called the khoisan. the khoi-khoi were the most recent branching of the san (about 2000 years ago). i find it interesting to think of the multiple branchings off of them over the years, each one probably giving rise to some branch of mankind and in relatively modern times we actually have a living example of how it happened.
but back to the court case. the bushmen are going to move back to the lands they were evicted from from about 1997 to 2002 to make way for the conservation area. what's interesting is that the botswana government isn't goig to change the status of the area, so it will still be a national park. the other interesting point is that one of the reasons the government gave for not allowing them to continue their nomadic lifestyle was that it was impossible to provide them with sanitation, water, medical and the like. the court ruling apparently absolves the state from these responsibilities for those in the park. they will therefore truly have to return to the old ways.
san of old lived in total harmony with the environment in strong contrast to the rest of mankind. the fact that they will now be living in a national park seems to imply that their old culture will also be preserved. this could raise certain questions of possible discrimination. are they being equated to animals that are being preserved in a game reserve? the next interesting question is the question of hunting. in the past, the san used to hunt using poisoned arrows. they would then track the animal for a few days while the poison slowly took effect through some of the most inhospitable and arid areas of africa. if they are in a national park, will their be restrictions on their hunting? will they only be allowed to hunt by quota or will they be given free reign? will they be forbidden from using modern weapons like guns, thereby forcing them to revert totally back to the old ways?
there are so many interesting permutations to consider. the fact is they are returning to their old ways by choice after a hard fought court battle and for my part i wish them well and god speed.