Understanding the hunter, gatherer and pastoralist ways of life of the Khoe and San

Hunters and gatherers, who were mostly the San or Sanqua people, chose to not own cattle.

Instead, as cultural communities the San lived in different environments until they used up the herbs and plant life of that area.

Also, if animals migrated elsewhere, the San people followed them to continue hunting.

Pastoralists kept cattle and also engaged, in some instances, in subsistence farming. Subsistence farming is growing enough food to meet the needs of the communities.

The first inhabitants of Camissa or //Hui !Gaeb (place of the clouds) – [Cape Town] were pastoralists.

They kept cattle and also participated in subsistence farming.

When the European, Jan van Riebeek, landed in //Hui !Gaeb he encountered the Goringhaiqua and other Khoe pastoralists.

It is important to remember that one of the first individuals van Riebeek interacted with, Autshumato, was a pastoralist.

In van Riebeek’s diary he records how Autshumato and his community would travel between contemporary Hout Bay and “Table Bay” according to the rains and grazing grounds for their cattle.

The further our Ancestors spread away from “Table Bay” and moved towards Paarl, and then across the mountains into the Karoo – even in the direction of present-day Malmesbury —->

that was the roaming ground of the San(qua) people.

The Sanqua were hunter-gatherers and chose not to keep cattle. It is said the Khoe looked down on the San due to this decision. We must deal with this as it affects our present.

Briefly, this is the difference between the two lifestyles of our Ancestors.

The significance is our Ancestors lived and depended on the land. They could farm, raise cattle and were independent communities. All our medicines came from the Earth.

This lifestyle ended when van Riebeek and then other settlers from European countries arrived in southern Africa.

Europeans demanded, went to war against and made laws to enforce the Khoe, and soon after, the San, to give their grazing grounds to them for ownership.

Land became “private property”.

This way of life was inherited from the European feudal system.

Image source.

In addition to claiming land, Europeans required the Khoe and San to be their servants.

They were no longer allowed to freely roam their Ancestral grounds.

This system of enforced landlessness was refined by descendants of the Voortrekkers under “apartheid”.

Even though We, the descendants of the Khoe and San, are still dependent on the neo-Apartheid economy for food,

our goal is to reclaim the freedoms we used to have during the pre-colonial era when we could roam the land.

For more information on hunters and gatherers, visit the following websites: