Bushmen of Botswana

What does one call the people of the Central Kalahari in Botswana who call themselves only the "first people"? In more than a dozen San languages there is no word that describes them collectively. To the Bushmen there is an "us" who share a language, and all others are "strangers". 

©Karl Svendsen

In fact it is only very recently in their own time line that Bushmen have become aware that any other humans even existed. 

Dutch settlers at the Cape, the first Europeans to make contact with them, coined the word bosftmans, or bushmen for these wild-looking nomads. Academia invented the term San, but in 
fact this might well be an old slur for people who had no stock, i.e. poor people. The last pure hunter-gatherer clan of the Kalahari was the / Gwikwe. / Cwimeans bush, and kwe people, which seems to be as good a name as any. Even though, technically speaking, there are none left. 

In the 1950s it was estimated there were around 60,000 people in southern Africa living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, people who — then as now — we commonly refer to as "Bushmen". In the mid- 1970s that number was recalibrated at around 6,000. Then came civil wars across the regions, with indigenous people caught in the crossfire; then veterinary fences that blocked natural migrations across the arid interior where they lived. 

In an attempt to mitigate the disastrous effects of these game fences, boreholes were sunk that led to rag-tag villages, employment on cattle ranches, ready alcohol and all the social pitfalls that followed. Some are of the opinion that it was the discovery of rich diamond pipes in the area that caused the Botswanan government to drive the Bushmen from their ancestral home, but the truth is a whole lot more complicated. 

For a lucky few a small door of opportunity has opened at various private game reserves such as Haina Kalahari Lodge, adjacent to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and not far from Deception Pan and Deception Valley. 

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