Importance of the Land
“We Bushmen were always afraid of other people and would run away from them… We were always running away from the world. Now we are at the end of the world, where we don’t have anywhere else to run.
“I can’t wait for us to have access to our own land, we will finally be able to relax. Our village is a very nice place, all the animals are used to us being here. It is important to keep that relationship. When we hunt, we tell the story of the animal and the hunt. This teaches our children how to hunt and to give respect and gratitude to the animal.” - Xhoeta, Bushmen hunter and elder.
The San Bushmen in Botswana have lost access to their ancestral lands and have been forced into settlements. This community is very clear and unified that they wish to have a property that they can live on, raise their children, practice their culture and restore the cultural practices that have been compromised.
They self-facilitate their current bush village and are one of the last stronghold San Bushmen communities still living “the old ways”.
Today, the Bushmen’s culture and traditional way of life is under direct threat. Like most indigenous peoples around the world, the Bushmen are under intense pressure from forced assimilation, relocation from their traditional lands to settlement villages, marginalization, and systematic and structural racism.
“We are similar to the Bushmen in this way: We are nourished and nurtured by connection to nature and land. Even though we are from different countries and cultures, there is an underlying unity in what we are doing. The hard wiring is the same in all of us.” - Pete McGowan
The Bushmen carry the collective knowledge of our early ancestors, yet they are dispossessed of land, rights, and self-determination. Those who have been forced to leave their ancestral lands and go to the settlements have failed and faltered terribly there. In the settlements they face modernization, being forced into Western schools, exploitation and addiction. All of these things cause them to no longer be Bushmen. Only by living in the bush full time are they able to be themselves.
Access to land is crucial to this community, to the larger Bushmen community, and to the larger, global community. There is a ripple effect because of all the knowledge that they are holding. Not just knowledge about the plants and the local animals, but their knowledge about the essentials of life - of healing, how to mentor your children, and how to connect to the land and to each other. They want to also be able to hold and teach this knowledge to other San Bushmen who want to return to their culture with it.
The vital knowledge that they hold is in danger. If this community loses access to land then their knowledge line breaks. In just one generation, all of their indigenous knowledge could be gone forever. If they don’t have a place to hold their own culture, they also won’t have a place to hold their culture for the rest of the global community who really, really need it.
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