Khoe and San resistance to the Dutch

The Khoe and San people put up mighty resistance against the Dutch settlers during the 17th and 18th centuries.

This history is important because it is not included in South African schools’ textbooks.

The majority of people have an impression of the Khoe and San as docile (willingly conquered) people who passively watched as the Europeans privatised land, a practice that was foreign to them.

To understand Khoe and San resistance to the Dutch it is necessary to understand divisions between the Khoe and San people that developed before the arrival of Europeans in Africa.

There were not always equal relationships between the Khoe and San.

In a way Our Khoe Ancestors looked down on Our San Ancestors.

This is because the Sa, or Sanqua or San refused to give up the hunter-gatherer way of life.

The San refused to settle and grow crops in designated areas as the Khoe did.

Rather, as their Ancestors did, the San way of life was to live in an environment until the plant and animal life was not enough and then move to new territory.

When European numbers started to increase in the south of the continent they were aware of divisions between Khoe and San people.

Khoe and San divisions were exploited to help Europeans expropriate and privatize land.

The conquered Khoe were often used as stock boys or herders for the dominant European settlers who had managed to strip them of cattle and their pastoral way of life.

Shula Marks, 1972

The destruction of the Khoe and San way of life signified that Southern Africa was under the clutch of the European colonial economy.

It is historically incorrect to suggest that Khoe and San people willingly allowed Europeans to kick them off the land and become servants after thousands of years of living in the land of their Ancestors.


As soon as the Khoi realized that, unlike their previous visitors [British], the Dutch had come to stay, their initially
friendly overtures turned to hostility. They asked longingly when the more generous English would return and their petty pilfering culminated in the murder of a Dutch herd-boy in I657. Van Riebeeck was convinced that Herry was the chief instigator of the crime (Marks 1972).

Marks (1972) writes that the Khoe San became aware that something terrible was unfolding infront of their eyes.

The strangers who had arrived on ships and whom they gave water and traded cattle intended to live in one place and take control of the land that had Provided for their Ancestors.

Staying in one place was contrary to the ancient KhoeKhoe pastoralist way of life.

The Khoe started to resist the settlers and raids against the Dutch who squatted on ancient land intensified.

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Khoisan Resistance to the Dutch in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
Author: Shula Marks
Source: The Journal of African History , 1972, Vol. 13, No. 1 (1972), pp. 55-80



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