Cultural Overview

The Hadza are nomadic hunter-gatherers who live in a savanna-woodland habitat around Lake Eyasi in northern Tanzania (Woodburn, 1968a). They number about 1,000 (Blurton Jones, O'Connell, Hawkes, Kamuzora, & Smith, 1992), of whom many are still full-time foragers, and the others are part-time foragers with virtually none practicing any kind of agriculture. Men collect honey and use bows and arrows to hunt mammals and birds. Women dig wild tubers and gather baobab fruit and berries. Camps usually have about 30 people and move about every month or so in response to the availability of water and berries and a variety of other reasons, such as a death.

The Hadza are very egalitarian and have no political structure, indeed they have no specialists of any sort (Woodburn, 1979). A slightly greater respect is afforded to older people, but it is not very marked compared with that in other East African societies. One manifestation of this respect is the fact that camps are usually referred to by the name of some senior man, usually in his fifties or sixties. The core of a camp, however, tends to be a group of sisters, one of whom the man has long been married to. There is no higher level of organization than the camp, and people move into and out of it with ease. Postmarital residence is best described as multilocal. Of those marriages where one spouse had parents living in the same camp, in about 60% it was the wife, 40% the husband (Woodburn, 1968b).

There are no clans, or unilineal kin groups of any kind. Descent is traced bilaterally with overlapping kin ties, so that any Hadza can usually decipher some kin connection to any other. Generation and gender are distinguished. For example, gender is distinguished among grandparents but matrilineal and patrilineal grandparents are not distinguished (though a suffix can be added to distinguish them). Cousins are distinguished by gender but matrilineal and patrilineal are not distinguished, nor are parallel cousins distinguished from cross cousins. The term for a female cousin is the same as for sister and male cousin the same as for brother, though in both cases they can be distinguished from siblings with a prefix. A distinction is made between maternal and paternal aunts and uncles. Father's brother is called by the same term as father, which may be related to the fairly often practiced levirate in which a man marries his dead brother's widow. Mother's brother is called by a different term than father. Maternal and paternal aunts, on the other hand, are both called by the same term as mother. When personal names are used, there is only a given name (and this is often changed). However, in recent times, when government officials, missionaries, or researchers ask for a surname, Hadza use the first name of the father as the child's second name.

The Hadza language, Hadzane, has clicks, and for that reason has often been classified with the San languages of southern Africa, but it may be only very distantly related (Sands, 1995). There are several different neighboring tribes of farmers and herders, the Nilotic-speaking Datoga and Maasai, the Cushitic-speaking Iraqw, and the Bantu-speaking Isanzu, Iramba, and Sukuma. Since Hadzane is in a completely separate linguistic phylum, this means there are four different language phyla represented, which is a high degree of linguistic diversity for such a small area. Some of these neighboring tribes have been in the area for a long time, the longest being the Iraqw, who moved down from Ethiopia 2,000-3,000 years ago (Ochieng, 1975). Relations between the Hadza and their neighbors are somewhat hostile but do involve some trading. For example, the Hadza give the Datoga honey which is made into beer and the Hadza in return get some beer or meat. The Hadza also trade meat and snakebite medicine for iron, cloth, and food. The Hadza resent the encroachment of the pastoralists, especially during the dry season when their herds can drink up all the water and eat up the plants needed to support the wildlife that the Hadza hunt. In days past, Hadza would occasionally hunt a cow belonging to the pastoralists but, if caught, would be hunted down and killed by a posse of pastoralists. When the first European explorers traveled in Hadza country, the Hadza would hide, which was probably their response to many outsiders (Marlowe, 2002).

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