THE NATIVE RACES OF SOUTH AFRICA
GEORGE W. STOW, F.G.S., F.R.G.S.
9. THE VARIOUS GROUPS OF BUSHMAN TRIBES (Continued).
The Bushmen of the Western Karoo.
Up to the middle of last century the Bushmen of the Karoo on the borders of the Dutch settlements were living on good terms with the colonists. They roamed about the border districts in a friendly way ; petty thefts now and then occurred, but " Bushman atrocities " were unheard of. It was about this time that some Dutch elephant hunters penetrated into the long kloof to the eastward, and began to make a permanent lodgment there. The mountains at that time were thickly peopled by Bushman clans, who held the key of all the passes leading to the eastward. Doubtless the newcomers, who were successful huntsmen — as the country literally swarmed with great troops of elephants and every pool and river teemed with hippopotami, — were welcomed as " flesh-givers." This was but the first phase of the contact of the two races.
The case however was altered when, either to escape the grip of the law or the oppressive restrictions of their own government, or from a desire to live a free and untrammelled life in the wilderness with an unlimited extent of land around them, the colonists began to cross the great mountain ranges in considerable and ever-increasing numbers, carrying their numerous flocks and herds with them, invading the Bokkeveld, seizing the fountains, making permanent settlements, destroying or driving away the game, the Bushmen's means of subsistence, treating the inhabitants, the " zwarte schepsels," with menace and contumely, and reducing all those who fell into their grasp to a condition of abject slavery.
Then a spirit of resistance was aroused in the breasts of the Bushmen of the Karoo, and this feeling of hostility gradually increased, as the voortrekkers pressed on, extending themselves wherever water and herbage were to be found, to the Roggeveld in one direction, and to the Camdeboo (or Green Elevations) and De Bruyn's Hoogte, including all the sources of the Sunday's river and the abundant springs of the Sneeuwbergen. The Bushmen resented this unjustifiable usurpation of their ancestral hunting grounds, this wanton destruction of the game which they looked upon as their property, and the forced servitude of many of their number captured when others were hunted and shot down like wild beasts of the field ; and they rose, from one end of the border line to the other, en masse, and made a desperate effort to drive back the intruders.
The details of the actions of the periodical commandos which followed for the express purpose of totally subduing and extirpating the obnoxious race form a portion of the history of the Dutch settlement ; we shall therefore defer their consideration until we arrive at that section of our subject. Suffice it here to say the Bushmen were pursued and destroyed with a relentless and almost savage ferocity, clan after clan was annihilated, the men were shot down without mercy, and the surviving women and children were dragged into a state worse than slavery. Sometimes they were destroyed in their caves, and no survivors were left ; all, men, women, and children, perished in a heap ; and men, nominally Christians, boasted, as if they had been engaged in some meritorious act, of the active part they had taken in these scenes of slaughter.
Before any of the history of the Bushmen of the Western Karoo was recorded, their clans had been broken up and scattered, and the miserable remnant, with scarcely the means of subsistence, was reduced to the most deplorable condition of want and wretchedness.
Cruelly as they had been treated by the vast majority of Europeans who invaded their country, some two or three farmers living upon this border stand out as a bright example to the remainder of their countrymen, for the zealous and humane endeavours they made to ameliorate the wretchedness of the unhappy aborigines. They obtained by public subscription a considerable number of sheep and homed cattle for their use, hoping thus to reclaim them from their wandering life ; and by their means, with the co-operation of one of the captains, several hordes of these outcasts were brought together, while an equally zealous missionary, named Kicherer, volunteered to attempt to establish a mission among them.
Among this small knot of right-minded philanthropists, the name of Floris Fischer is undoubtedly pre-eminent. He it was who first attempted to rouse a better feeling in the Bushmen. With other farmers he made a treaty between the Bushmen and themselves, who had suffered terribly in their flocks and herds from depredations. The Bushmen were struck with the solemn appeal to heaven made by Fischer to witness the transaction. After satisfying some of their enquiries, he, at their request, took some of the principal of them to Cape Town. The missionary, who had newly arrived, returned with them, and the farmers loaded them with things necessary to commence the station, while some accompanied them to the spot first selected, and Zak river became a finger-post. Many farmers exerted themselves with commendable liberality in favour of the object in view.
Unhappily the company and countenance of the Bushmen could not be commanded without a daily portion of victuals and tobacco, of which Mr. Kicherer had received an ample supply from the farmers. The country in which the mission was fixed was sterile in the extreme, and rain so seldom fell that they were obliged to depend upon foreign supplies. It was doubtless to these insurmountable and adverse circumstances that the failure of the mission was chiefly owing. At Mr. Kicherer's departure the station was left in charge of Mr. and Mrs. A. Vos and a Mr. Botha, a farmer, who had sold all he had to aid the mission. These men, not having equal resources with its founders, though distinguished for exemplary patience, after suffering great privations and hardships from drought and the plundering Bushmen, were compelled in 1806 to abandon the station.
The Bushmen, as a people, could never appreciate the effort that had been made for their welfare, their wild life and its untrammelled freedom had too many fascinations for them, and they continued to harass and impoverish those of their countrymen attached to it. A few only followed their teacher to Graaff Reinet.
In the above account, which is quoted from Mr. Moffat, the cause of failure in this laudable attempt is attributed principally to the Bushmen themselves ; but there were certainly other causes which from its very commencement entailed an improbability of success. The character of the tract of country set apart for their use was sufficient of itself to mar the entire project. It was the most arid and sterile of all the countless acres of the land of their forefathers. Every fountain and every stream had been appropriated by the insatiable greed of the intruders, and a piece of ground upon which none of them could live themselves was allotted for the regeneration of the owners of the soil. How could they learn the advantages of a more settled life on a spot where nothing could be cultivated, and scarcely a sufficient supply of their own primitive roots and tubers could be obtained ? There could be no luxuriant crops, no loaded fruit-trees flourishing before their eyes, to serve as an ocular demonstration of the benefits to be derived from well-directed industry. Even the cattle that were given to them could scarcely obtain sufficient nourishment in a country where there were more stones and sand to be seen than blades of parched and withered grass.
Placing these unfortunate creatures in such a position was enough to confirm them in the idea that their former mode of life was infinitely superior to that to which they were to be condemned by their new friends. This doubtless was the rock upon which the good ship was wrecked. We shall find also from other evidence that at the time this effort was made the entire border was in the utmost anarchy and confusion. The north-western districts were being pillaged and kept in a state of terror by the daring and unchecked exploits of the notorious freebooter Africander and other lawless bands of savage banditti that followed in his wake and professed to act under his inspiration. A spirit of insubordination still smouldered in the breasts of the more turbulent of the white population, and violence and rapine were everywhere indulged in in open day. Thus it was that in every part of the country where the Bushmen made an attempt to settle, and we shall discover as we proceed that this was not an isolated case, it was not so much from the marauding disposition of their own countrymen that they were impoverished as from the utter lawlessness of the intruders.
They were cajoled out of, or driven by force from, every useful fountain by the whites ; they were dispossessed upon paltry and unsubstantial excuses of the only flourishing mission stations which had been established among them ; and the fountains and lands they were learning to cultivate were most iniquitously granted to the interested complainants, a too palpable proof of the reasons for the charges that were made against these members of a cruelly treated race. They were attacked and plundered by marauding Griquas and Koranas and some of the other stronger robber pastoral tribes, while the remnant that escaped were driven once more to seek a precarious mode of subsistence, under far more disadvantageous circumstances than their forefathers, the greater part of the game having been destroyed.
Under such circumstances, what could we expect as the natural consequence ? Can we wonder that such well-meaning and meritorious attempts became failures, or that they soon became too late ? " Past sufferings, and past offences on both sides," writes Moffat, " had produced a feeling of hatred so universal that it was of no avail to pacify one party," while in other directions, upon the smallest provocation, their co-patriots were being shot down like wild beasts without pity, and men, women, and children frequently, as we have before mentioned, indiscriminately slaughtered, thus arousing in the breasts of thousands a thirst for revenge and plunder. It was doubtless this state of affairs which greatly militated against the success of the first missionaries in their attempts to influence them. The few they were able to gather round them were ever in a state of unrest and uncertainty, while their more untamed countrymen were being harried out of the surrounding country, writhing under the wrongs inflicted upon them, or mercilessly butchered whenever they fell into the hands of their pursuers.
From Borcherds we learn that up to the time of his visit some of the Roggeveld Bushmen strenuously defended themselves in several of the strongholds of the country ; thus a defile between two steep hills beyond the Riet river formed one of their great retreats, to which they retired after their forays, and especially to that portion called the Bonteberg, which was too rocky and steep to be ascended with horses.
Mr. Kicherer gives the following description of the wretched condition in which he found these Bushmen of the Karoo.
Their manner of living, he says, was extremely wretched and disgusting. They delighted to besmear their bodies with the fat of animals, mingled with ochre, and sometimes with grime (probably the black sooty paint with which they frequently painted their bodies). They were utter strangers to cleanliness, as they never washed their bodies, but suffered the dirt to accumulate. Their huts were formed by digging holes in the earth about three feet deep, and then making a roof of reeds, which was, however, insufficient to keep off the rains. Here they lay close together. They were extremely lazy, so that nothing would rouse them to action but excessive hunger.
We have abundance of evidence, however, to show that this was not their natural character in their undisturbed state. The torpor of despair had seized them. They would continue, he adds, several days together without food,N rather than be at the pains of procuring it. When compelled to sally forth for prey they were dexterous in destroying the various beasts which abounded, and they could run almost as well as a horse. They were total strangers to domestic happiness. The men had several wives, but conjugal affection was little known.
Notes: This in all probability must have been after rains, to which, as we have seen, they had a great aversion.
Thompson, who visited these tribes nearly twenty years later, says that after the larger game was driven out of the country by the guns of the Boers and the Griquas, the Bushmen were reduced to the most wretched shifts to obtain a precarious subsistence, living chiefly on wild roots, locusts, and the larvae of insects. Even in 1823 the wandering hordes of this people were scattered over a territory of very wide extent, but of so barren and arid a character that by far the greater portion of it was not permanently habitable by any class of human beings.
Even as it was, colonists were perpetually pressing in upon their territory wherever a fountain or even a temporary pool of water was to be found. Had this territory been fertile, there can be little question but that it would have been years before entirely occupied by the Christians. They were continually soliciting from the government fresh grants beyond the nominal boundary, and were, in the year above mentioned, very urgent to obtain possession of a tract lying between the Zak and Hartebeest rivers. In defence of these aggressions, they maintained that the Bushmen were a nation of robbers, who, as they neither cultivated the soil nor pastured cattle, were incapable of occupying the country advantageously ; that they would live much more comfortably by becoming the herdsmen and household servants of the Christians than they did on their own precarious resources, and finally that they were incapable of being civilised by any other means.
Field Commandant Gert van der Walt communicated his experiences with regard to these Karoo Bushmen to Mr. Melville, the Government Agent among the Griquas, who thus wrote in 1825 : — Van der Walt stated that both he and his father had been for many years at war with them. From the time he could use a gun he went upon commandos, but he owned that he could now see that no good was ever done by this course of vindictive retaliation. They still continued their depredations, and retained an inveterate spirit of revenge. He was in constant danger of losing his cattle and of being murdered by them. Having seen the effects of war and cruelty, he had for a few years past tried what might be done by cultivating peace with them, and experience had convinced him that his present plan was most conducive to his interest. He said the Landdrost Stockenstrom was also friendly to pacific measures, and encouraged the plan he had adopted. This was to keep a flock of goats to supply the Bushmen with food in seasons of great want, and occasionally to give them other little presents, by which means he not only kept on good terms with them, but they became very service-able in taking care of his flocks in dry seasons.
He said that on occasions when there was no pasturage on his own farm, he was accustomed to give his cattle entirely into the care of a chief of a tribe who lived near him, and after a certain period they never failed to be brought back again in so improved a condition that he scarcely knew them to be his own.
Mr. Melville gives another example of faithfulness in the character of these Bushmen. A farmer who had been residing at a place called Dassen Poort (the pass of the rock rabbit or coney) and had built a hut and raised some wheat, but had been ordered away from it by the Landdrost on account of its being beyond the boundaries of the colony, left the wheat he had sown, when he removed from the place, in charge of two Bushmen ; and when Mr. Melville passed the spot these two men were still at the post of duty, carefully watching and guarding the crop from harm : another proof that had the conquering race been desirous of doing so, it would not have been so difficult to have cultivated peace with these oppressed people, if measures of real kindness had been in the first instance adopted towards them.
Further evidence upon this point was gained by Thompson from an old man of about sixty. This man stated that he had lived all his life upon the Bushman frontier. He could recollect the time when few or no murders were committed by Bushmen, especially upon the Christians. The era of bitter and bloody hostility between them commenced, he said, about fifty years before, or about 1770-73, in the following manner. The burgher Coetzee van Reenen had an overseer who kept his flocks near the Zak river, this man was of a brutal and insolent disposition and a great tyrant over the Bushmen ; he had shot some of them at times out of mere wantonness. The Bushmen submissively endured the oppression of this petty tyrant for a long period, but at length their patience was worn out, and one day when he was cruelly maltreating one of their nation another struck him through with his assagai. This act was represented in the Colony as a horrible murder.
A strong commando was sent into the Bushman country and hundreds of innocent people were massacred to avenge the death of this unhappy wretch. Such treatment roused the animosity of the Bushmen to the highest pitch, and eradicated all remains of respect which they still retained for the Christians. The commando had scarcely left the country when the whole race of Bushmen along the frontier simultaneously commenced a system of predatory and murderous incursions against the colonists, from the Khamiesberg to the Stormberg. These depredations were retaliated by fresh commandos, who slew the old without pity and carried off the young into bondage. The acts of the commandos were again avenged by new robberies and murders, and mutual injuries were accumulated and mutual rancour kept up to the present day.
The evidence which Thompson obtained from Field Commandant Nejj will form a fitting conclusion to our remarks upon these Bushmen of the Karoo. He informed our traveller that in the last thirty years (that is, from 1793 to 1823) he had been upon thirty-two commandos against Bushmen, in which great numbers had been shot, and their children carried into the Colony. On one of these expeditions no less than two hundred Bushmen were massacred! In justification of this barbarous system, he narrated many shocking stories of atrocities committed by Bushmen upon colonists, which together with the continual depredations upon their property had often called down upon them the full weight of vengeance. Such was to 1823, to a great extent, the horrible warfare existing between the Christians and the natives of the northern frontier, and by which the process of extermination was still proceeding against the latter, as in the days of Barrow.
This Field-Commandant was in many other respects, so Thompson assures us, a meritorious, benevolent, and clear-sighted man ; and it was a strange and melancholy trait of human nature to see one with so many excellent points in his character so seemingly unconscious that any part of his proceedings, or those of his countrymen, in their wars with the Bushmen could awaken in the breast of a right-minded man a feeling of horror and abhorrence. The massacre of many hundreds of these miserable creatures, and the carrying away of their children into servitude, seemed to be considered by him and his companions as perfectly lawful, just, and necessary, and as meritorious service done to the public, of which they had no more cause to be ashamed than a brave soldier of having distinguished himself against the enemies of his country ; while, on the other hand, he spoke with detestation of the callousness of the Bushmen in the commission of robbery and murder upon the Christians, not seeming to be aware that the treatment these persecuted tribes had received from the Christians might in their apprehension justify every excess of malice and revenge they were able to perpetrate.
The hereditary sentiments of animosity and the deep-rooted contemptuous prejudices sear the better feelings, in such cases, of those who come under their influence ; and thus it has been that the conduct of the farmers towards the ill-fated race was rather of a description to render them more barbarous and desperate than to conciliate or civilise them.
The Bushmen of the Camdeboo and Sneeuwberg.
The tribes of these two localities belong to the same group, the former being the name of the country occupied by the projecting buttresses which extend far from the foot, and support the Snowy mountains, and which on that account are mostly covered with verdure. They were styled 'Cam'deboo, or the Green Elevations, by the old inhabitants ; while the Sneeuwbergen form the higher and central ridges, culminating in the crest of the Compassberg, the highest point in Southern Africa, with the exception of the ridge of the Drakensberg. In treating of the one, we shall therefore be describing the other.
Sparrman, who is the oldest writer who notices the Bushmen of this part of the country, and who visited it after they had been harried by commandos, had evidently imbibed a little of the colonial prejudice against them. He states that the Sneeuwbergen, which lie to the north of the Camdeboo, were so called from the snow with which in winter time the highest of them were covered, and which even remained on them during part of the summer. The Lower Sneeuwbergen were inhabited the year throughout, but on the higher range of hills the winters were severe enough. This circumstance compelled the colonists who settled there to remove during the winter into the plains below Camdeboo.
The inhabitants, who had only forced themselves into, and located themselves in that portion of the Bushman territory a short time before Sparrman's arrival, in the more distant parts of this range were obliged to entirely relinquish their dwellings and habitations, on account of the savage plundering race of Bushmen, who from their hiding places, shooting forth their poisoned arrows at the shepherd, killed him, and afterwards drove away the whole of his flock, which perhaps consisted of several hundred sheep, and formed the chief, if not the whole, of the farmer's property. What they could not drive away with them they killed and wounded as much as the time allowed them while they were making their retreat.
It was in vain to pursue them, they being so very swift of foot, and taking refuge in the steep mountains, which they were able to run up almost as nimbly as baboons or monkeys. From these they rolled down great stones on any one who was imprudent enough to follow them. The approach of night gave them time to withdraw themselves entirely from those parts, by ways and places with which none but themselves were acquainted. They then collected together again in bodies numbering some hundreds, from their hiding places and clefts in the mountains, in order to commit fresh depredations and robberies.
Neither Sparrman nor anyone else of the time thought for a moment of the grievous wrong which had been done by the land-robbers who had seized upon all their hunting grounds, surrounding the mountains of their ancestors, the ancient men who had adorned their numerous cave dwellings with innumerable paintings showing the history and hunting achievements of their race for unknown generations. The hundreds of whom he speaks had been most unceremoniously dispossessed of their country, and all their mountain streams had been appropriated to gratify the territorial greed of a few score men, who called themselves civilised because they had guns in their hands.
One of these colonists, who had been obliged to flee from the defenders of the mountains, informed Sparrman that the Bushmen grew bolder every day, and seemed to increase in numbers since people had with greater earnestness set about extirpating them. This is but another proof of the determination of their resistance ; they rallied at the point of greatest danger, as it was doubtless this cause which occasioned them to collect in large bodies, in order to be the better able to withstand the encroachments of the colonists, who had already taken away their best dwelling and hunting places. An instance was related in which these Sneeuwberg Bushmen had besieged a peasant with his wife and children in their cottage, till at length he drove them off by repeatedly firing among them.
Not long before this, however, they had suffered a considerable defeat in the following manner. Several farmers, who perceived that they were not able to get at the Bushmen by the usual methods, shot a sea-cow, and took only the prime part of it for themselves, leaving the rest by way of bait ; they themselves in the meantime lying in ambush. The Bushmen with their wives and children now came down from their hiding-places, with the intention of feasting sumptuously on the sea-cow that had been shot ; but the farmers, who came back again very unexpectedly, turned the feast into a scene of blood and slaughter.N Pregnant women and children in their tenderest years were not at this time, neither indeed were they ever, exempt from the effects of the hatred and spirit of vengeance constantly harboured by the colonists with respect to the Bushman nation, excepting such indeed as were marked out to be carried away into bondage.
Notes: We shall find as we proceed that this treacherous mode of attack was carried out on a more extensive scale by one of the large commandos under the guidance of a Field-Commandant.
Did a colonist at any time get sight of a Bushman, he took fire immediately, and spirited up his horse and dogs in order to hunt him with more ardour and fury than he would a wolf or any other wild beast. On an open plain a few colonists on horseback were always sure to get the better of the greatest number of Bushmen that could be brought together, as the former always kept at a distance of a hundred or a hundred and fifty paces, as they might find it convenient, and charging their heavy fire-arms with a very large kind of shot, jumped off their horses and took rest in their usual manner on their ramrods, in order that they might shoot with greater certainty, so that the balls discharged by them would sometimes, as Sparrman was assured go through the bodies of six, seven or eight of the enemy at a time, especially as these latter knew no better than to keep close together in a body. It was true, on the other hand, the Bushmen could shoot their arrows to the distance of two hundred paces, but with a very uncertain aim, as the arrow must first necessarily have made a curve in the air, and should it even at that distance have chanced to hit any of the farmers, it would not have been able to go through his hat or his ordinary linen or coarse woollen coat.
In the district of the Sneeuwberg the landdrost appointed one of the farmers, with the title of Field-Corporal, to command in these wars, and, as occasion might require, to order out the country people in separate parties for the purpose of defending the country against its original inhabitants. The government, indeed, had no other part in the cruelties exercised by its subjects than that of taking no cognizance of them ; but in this point it was certainly too remiss, in leaving a whole nation to the mercy of every peasant, or in fact every one that chose to invade their land, as of such people one might naturally expect that interested views and an unbridled spirit of revenge would prevail over the dictates of prudence and humanity. Sparrman declares that he was far from accusing all the colonists of having a hand in these and other cruelties, which were too frequently committed in this quarter of the globe. While some plumed themselves upon them, there were many who, on the contrary, held them in abomination and feared lest the vengeance of heaven should, for all these crimes, fall upon the land and their posterity.
In 1782 Le Vaillant travelled through this portion of the country. In his time the Bushmen, notwithstanding all the attacks which had been made upon them, still resolutely maintained themselves in the more inaccessible parts of the range. On approaching it, a kraal of Hottentots was found near the foot of the mountain, who had migrated from some of the western districts. On approaching it, the children no sooner saw the new- comers than they ran to hide themselves, screaming horribly. It contained about one hundred and thirty men, and they possessed about one hundred head of cattle and treble that number of sheep. They were busily engaged in drying locusts on mats, having previously pulled off the wings and legs.
The colonial method of attempting to conciliate the unfortunate Bushmen is well illustrated by an incident in which Le Vaillant, a professed philanthropist, was personally engaged. One of the keepers of his stock, he informs us, came and reported to him that several Bushmen had descended from the mountains and drew near to them, but had been kept in awe by a few discharges of their muskets. Immediately he and his chief attendant got on horseback, and accompanied by four good marksmen, went in quest of such dangerous plunderers, and soon discovered thirteen of them. The Bushmen seeing the pursuing party advancing resolutely, and hearing their bullets whistle through the air, presently took to flight, and though the traveller and his men followed at full speed, they could not get near enough to hit them. They presently regained and hid themselves in the mountains. Le Vaillant confesses that he could not help admiring the address with which they climbed like monkeys the most craggy and steep parts of the rock, where he did not pretend to follow, as it would have been imprudent to attack them in their inaccessible retreats.
As it was, it was certainly one of the most unprovoked attacks on his part, a mere traveller through the country, but from the way he speaks of it, he evidently considered it a very dashing and meritorious action.
Le Vaillant states that he considered the Bushmen were a different nation from the Hottentots. In some cantons they were called Chinese Hottentots, because their complexions resembled the Chinese seen at the Cape, and like them too they were of middling stature. He imagined that they were a peculiar race of Hottentots, distinguished by the savages of the desert, who had no communication with the Dutch settlements, by the name Houswaana. He further states that this branch of the Bushman family formerly inhabited the Camdeboo, the Bokkeveld, and the Roggeveld ; but the usurpation of the whites, to whom, like the other savages, they had fallen victims, obliged them to seek refuge at a distance from their country, inhabiting in his time the vast space that lies between Kaffraria and the country of the Namaquas.
Of all the nations, he adds, who have been ill-treated by the Europeans, none remembered their wrongs with so much bitterness. They never forgot the treachery of the colonists or the infamous return made for the many signal services they had rendered them, and such, he says, was the resentment of these people, that the terrible cry of vengeance was ever in their mouths.
The Bushmen of Achter De Bruyn's Hoogte and the Great Eastern Plains.
Of these tribes and the country which they inhabited, Sparrman affords the following interesting particulars. These were the tribes which were called by the voortrekkers the Cineese or Snese Hottentots, i.e. Chinese Hottentots. The clans which inhabited De Bruyn's and Achter De Bruyn's Hoogte lived peace- ably with the first Christians who migrated there. The latter were then few in number, and doubtless found it expedient to adopt, as all isolated voortrekkers ever did, a conciliatory policy towards the aborigines, instead of the arrogant and overbearing treatment meted out as soon as their number was sufficiently augmented to enable them to dictate terms to those who in the first instance had welcomed them as friends.
In the days of their weakness the Bushmen were accustomed to perform the kindest offices for them, and would frequently go unasked in search of a stray lamb or the like belonging to the Christians, and take it home to them ; but at length, after their countrymen had been harried by the relentless commandos, and massacred in their caves, they withdrew themselves and lived concealed in the holes and crevices of the rocks in different parts of the country, like the other Bushmen. Yet, being fewer in number, they were not altogether so bold and daring. Their complexions being rather of a yellowish cast, they were considered by the early Dutch settlers as a different nation, and were consequently called Chinese or Snese Hottentots. The chief abode of these fugitives was on each side of the two Fish rivers. Another and more considerable part of this yellow-skinned nation was dispersed, in 1776, over a tract of country eleven days' journey in breadth, and situated more to the north than to the north-east of the Fish rivers, near a river called Tsomo, where some of them were said to be occupied in grazing and rearing cattle.
One of these tribes was called 'Tambu'ki, and there seems no reason to doubt that frequent intermarriages took place between them and some of the pioneer clans of the Abatembu. From this friendly intercourse the two races would assimilate gradually to each other, as we shall discover that the Ghonaquas did with the foremost struggling clans of those Kaffir tribes which during their migrations continued to hug the coast, just as a similar partial amalgamation took place between them and the pioneer clans which formed the van in the southern migration of the Bachoana tribes. In all these cases, isolated fugitives from the various advancing branches first came in contact with the aboriginal Bushmen occupying the country, then came small detached clans far in advance of the main body, too few in number to appear in any other guise than that of friends and suppliants.
During this phase of the intercourse between the various races, while the Bushmen were still the more numerous and stronger party and the masters of the situation, friendly relations were maintained, and a half-caste race with various gradations of intermixture sprang up at the different points of contact. Some of the Bushmen, obtaining in exchange for their furs or beads a few cattle from their new friends, thus became semi-pastoral, while the latter, in their turn, adopted, or rather grafted upon their own customs, a few of those of their entertainers.
The old Bushman tribe of the 'Tambu'ki was a striking example of this.N They appear to have occupied the valley of the Tsomo, and were described 'to Sparrman by the Chinese Bushmen as being like themselves in complexion, but more powerful and warlike. They said that beyond them was another nation still more warlike and intrepid, whom they called the Mambukis, apparently the Abatembu. When treating of this latter tribe, we shall learn that Lieutenant Paterson also states distinctly that these 'Tambu'ki were originally a Bushman tribe, with the members of which the advanced Abatembu contracted marriage, and that upon the occasion of a civil war breaking out between two rival branches of this Kaffir tribe, the weaker of them fled and sought a refuge among the 'Tambu'ki Bushmen, with whom they amalgamated, and were ever after known by the sobriquet of Tambuki. The Bushman element became absorbed, and ultimately overwhelmed, by the increasing numbers of the stronger race. The high cheek-bones, the moderate stature of many, the remarkably small feet and hands of some of their chiefs, being a striking divergence from the pure Kaffir type, and finally the adoption by this division of the Abatembu of the Bushman custom of mutilating the hand by cutting off the first joint of one of their fingers, are all unquestionable proofs of this friendly amalgamation of the advanced tribes of the two races.
Notes: This fact is established by the evidence obtained from native and other sources during his travels among their countrymen in the north, and from the corroborative information collected when among some of the Amaxosa Kaffirs in the south, by Lieutenant Paterson. Witnesses so far removed and isolated from one another must needs be independent.
With regard to the amicable disposition of these Bushmen, Sparrman informs us that small parties of Christians had travelled all through this country, and shot elephants there unmolested, yet they thought it necessary for their greater security to shut themselves up at night in their waggons as in a castle. The more considerable rivers which ran through the country of the Chinese Bushmen were the following : t'Kamsi-f’kay, or the White Kei ; t'Nu-t'kay, the Black Kei, and the Little 'Zomo and Great 'Zomo or the Tsomo. Beyond the last, in 1776, another country belonging to a different nation commenced.
Sparrman states that although up to his time no attempt had been made to improve the condition of the Bushmen and make them better men and more useful to the colonists, still, judging from the disposition of those who had been hired in the colonists' service or made slaves of, it did not seem impossible to be effected, although he saw that the sentiments commonly entertained to their disadvantage, as well as the cruelties which had hitherto been practised upon them, could not but lay many impediments in the way of an attempt of this nature.
These Chinese Bushmen made delineations upon the smooth surface of the rocks, though in as uncouth and artless a style as might be expected from so rude and unpolished a people.
The Bushmen of the Bamboesberg.
The Bamboesberg is a portion of the great Stormberg, which in this particular locality forms a double range that in the early days presented such an impenetrable and insurmountable barrier, with its intricate and precipitous fastnesses, that up to the year 1797 it was considered so completely impassable either with waggons or on horseback, that no one had ever penetrated into it. These strongholds, as they had ever been, were still in the hands of formidable Bushman clans. The Bamboesberg, Stormberg, and Tarka tribes appear to have belonged to the same group, and frequently to have acted in conjunction with one another in their efforts to repel the invaders of their ancient hunting-grounds.
In Barrow's time a portion of the Bamboesberg was occupied by a formidable horde about five hundred strong, under a captain named by the colonists Lynx. This traveller informs us that caverns full of their drawings were found in some of these mountains, such as elephants, hippopotami, and among the rest one camelopard.N In the course of the journey he saw several thousand figures of animals, but none had the appearance of being monstrous, none that could be considered as works of the imagination ; they were generally as faithful representations of nature as the talents of the artist would allow.
Notes: The writer has found several drawings of the giraffe in the Zwart Kei and Tsomo caves, also in the Wittebergen of the Orange Free State, indubitably proving that this animal was found in the early days over a far wider area of country than at present.
An instance of this was shown in one of the caves visited, and one which clearly demonstrates the efforts the leading Bushman artists made to copy nature, efforts which were crowned with such success that some chef d'œuvres, the productions of their native Landseers, must from their correctness of outline, their action, their shading, and their finish, fill every impartial beholder with astonishment. Barrow found the back shell of a particular tortoise, the testudo geometrica, lying on the floor of the cave. The artist had evidently been disturbed, and thrown down his model in his flight, for on the smooth side of the cave the regular lines with which it is marked, and from which it takes its name, had been very recently and very accurately copied !
The struggle of these mountaineer Bushmen was a long and desperate one ; the fact has been recorded, but most of the details are lost, and those which have been preserved are so interwoven with the border history of the Colony that we shall defer their recital until we treat upon that subject. Sometimes the commandos committed frightful massacres amongst them, and ranges of mountains would appear cleared for the time ; but suddenly they would rally again in renewed strength, and the avengers of blood would drive the intruders from their homesteads, from the mountain-rills and picturesque nooks they had chosen, to seek a more secure retreat in the open plains. Thus had the Tarka been abandoned at the time of Barrow's visit. The paintings found in the Bushman caves of the Tarka mountains proclaimed the rights and title deeds of the aborigines, while the deserted farms in the glens at their foot, where vineyards loaded with grapes, and peach trees, and almond, apple, and pear trees full of fruit were found, and no hands to pluck them, made known the temporary defeat of the invaders.
The Bushmen of the Tooverberg and the Northern Plains.
We have chosen the Tooverberg, or Mountain of the Wizard, as the representative centre of this group, as much has been recorded of the Bushmen who lived in its neighbourhood, in consequence of a Bushman mission station having at one time existed there. This mountain received its distinguishing appellation from the Boers who first discovered it, from the fact of its being seen from a great distance, and which from its size and the flatness of the country to the south of it, they imagined was much nearer than it really was. It therefore appeared to keep receding as they advanced, hence they gave it the name of the Mountain of the Wizard.
In 1820 there were many Bushmen in the country surrounding it. When Mr. Backhouse visited them some of them informed him that their forefathers had dwelt there from time immemorial. In the year mentioned they were living under a chief named 'Na'na'kow by his own people, and Uithaalder by the Dutch. His territory extended from the Zeekoe river to Van der Walt's Buffels Fontein, and in describing it 'Na'na'kow used to say that he drank of the Zeekoe river and of Van der Walt's Fontein. The whole of his country swarmed with elands, gnus, and springboks.
The first mission station appears to have been established by Mr. Kolbe, a German missionary, but the honour of having first pleaded the cause of these Bushmen certainly belongs to the Rev. A. Faure, a minister of the Dutch Reformed church, who had long resided on the exposed frontier of Graaff Reinet. His evidence is both valuable and conclusive on the character of these Bushmen for fidelity in any trust imposed upon them. The farmers, he writes, are entirely dependent on the Bushmen for their welfare. Few, if any, have either slaves or Hottentots, consequently they have no means of getting their cattle properly tended without their assistance. Such farmers as possess Bushmen have been in the habit of committing to them the charge of their flocks, and they have proved such faithful shepherds that the farmers have not hesitated to give them some hundreds of ewes and other cattle to sojourn with them beyond the limits of the Colony.
The Bushman, having received a reward of some tobacco, dacha or wild hemp leaves, for smoking, and perhaps two or three ewes, left the habitation of the colonist, drove the cattle into distant parts, with the fertility of which he was well acquainted, and after an absence of some months returned to the farmer his cattle in such improved condition that had they not had his particular mark upon them, he would with difficulty have credited that they were the same animals which on account of their leanness the Bushman could with difficulty remove from his farm. Facts of this kind prove not only the individual honesty of the Bushman thus trusted, but also the general honesty of all those of his race with whom he must have, of necessity, come in contact during the long period of his wanderings. Sometimes the farmer, Mr. Faure continues, put the fidelity of the Bushman to the test by sending one or two of his acquaintances to try whether they could not obtain a sheep by promising some reward, but the instances were rare in which such messengers succeeded. Many farmers on the frontier assured Mr. Faure that had it not been for the Bushmen they saw no means of breeding cattle.
Bearing upon this subject, Colonel Collins, in his report (1809) upon the native tribes, recommended that the Bushmen should be introduced into the colony, collected and instructed in institutions, and then dispersed among the colonists. He pointed out such positions as he considered most eligible for the formation of stations under proper regulations. The Bushmen, he stated, often suffered extreme misery, but seldom robbed except to satisfy their wants, and afforded the fairest hope of becoming in time useful to themselves and to the colony. Humanity and policy therefore combined to prompt the adoption of every measure that could tend to alleviate their unhappy lot and attach them to the settlers. He pointed out the necessity of some steps being immediately taken, lest the inhabitants becoming tired of their importunities, the Bushmen should return to the mountains and recommence their former predatory mode of life.
From the above it would appear that there was a short lull about this time in the war of extermination which had raged for upwards of thirty years with vindictive violence, sweeping over the fated Bushman territory in a pitiless storm of blood ; and it would have been well for the cause of humanity and the honour of the British name had this warning voice been listened to, and this opportunity of arresting the extinction of this cruelly treated and unhappy race been seized and utilised, as was so earnestly recommended in Colonel Collins' valuable report. But alas ! this fitting opportunity was allowed to pass, and a second period of war and extermination was entered upon as remorselessly and pitilessly as the one which had preceded it, and which every right-minded man must look upon with humiliation and abasement, when he considers that although it was accomplished by the same agency as before, it was carried out under the auspices of a government whose proud boast was that it ever upheld the cause of justice and right, defended from their oppressors the weak, and struck off the fetters from the slave.
In 1814 a mission was established at Tooverberg, near the site of the present town of Colesberg, and another was founded at Hephzibah at a subsequent period. In about a month's time there were collected at the latter place no fewer than eight hundred and eighty-seven Bushmen, exclusive of children ; and the Bushmen belonging to the two stations at this period amounted to seventeen hundred. The Bushmen having once settled at the station, generally went out to invite others of their nation to join them, and when they succeeded, these were introduced to the missionary, and after staying a few days at the institution, usually returned to bring their families with them. During the continuance of these institutions they committed no depredations in the Colony, or anywhere else. Not only were there no depredations, but no pretext was found for the visitation on the part of the colonists of those terrible armed parties which had caused so much havoc among the hapless aborigines.
But the Bushmen were not allowed to remain long in peaceful possession of the lands which they were learning to cultivate with the inherent energy of their race. Too many greedy eyes were set upon the fountains which watered the fertile fields they had been taught to sow. In 1816 some differences arose between the resident missionary of Tooverberg and some of the neighbouring farmers who had appropriated the country respecting the seizure of some children belonging to the station. This disagreement became the pretext for the suppression of the missions ; the fieldcomet Van der Walt was against the missions, and had reported unfavourably about them to the landdrost. No specific charges appear to have been made, nor was any investigation instituted. A kind of general assertion was advanced that the collection of so many savages so near the colonial border was a menace to the peace of the colony.
Poor Bushmen ! the colonial border advanced upon them, not they towards the frontier line. This however mattered not, Lord Charles Somerset merely stated that he was under the obligation of recalling the missionaries within the limits of the colony, as these Bushman institutions were detrimental to its interests. The manner in which they were detrimental can only be decided by the action which was almost immediately initiated. About 1819-20 the greater part of the mission Bushmen were either killed or frightened away by the great influx of Boers in that year.
How it could be for a moment imagined that this arbitrary and continual seizure of land, without the slightest reservation being made for the unfortunate outcasts whose fathers had occupied it unchallenged from time immemorial, could be carried into effect without outraging every sense of justice, seems almost marvellous ; yet still more so on our finding that when a hapless Bushman, not only deprived of his ancient country but also of the very game which had been to him as much his means of subsistence as the flocks and herds of the intruders who were superseding him were of theirs, happened to steal a sheep to keep himself and his family from starving, if apprehended and taken alive, he was publicly flogged under the scaffold, branded with a hot iron, put in irons, and condemned to hard labour.
'Na'na'kow, the last Bushman captain of the Tooverberg, still clung to the old haunts of his fathers, notwithstanding the bloody fate of most of his tribe, to the year 1825, when he was seen there by Dr. Philip. He stated that many years before his father's kraal, without the least provocation, had been suddenly attacked by a party of Boers from the Colony ; and that his father and many hundreds of his people, men, women, and children, had been killed ; that afterwards ten waggons were laden with the surviving children and driven off to the colony by the attacking party ; that since that time many commandos had come against his people, that multitudes of them had been shot, and the children carried away ; that when the missionary came he ploughed and sowed land for them, and when the harvest was ripe, he taught them how to cut down the corn, and divided it among them ; and they were happy, for no more commandos came upon them ; that some moons after the missionary had left them the Boers came and took possession of the fountains and chased them from the land of Tooverberg, the land of their fathers, and made them go and herd their sheep and forced their children into perpetual servitude ; and that he, without people, with only his wife and four children, was hiding amongst the mountains and subsisting on roots and locusts ; that whenever sheep or goats or cattle strayed, or were stolen, the Boers said that the Bushmen had stolen them, and they were flogged and shot on suspicion only, for the cattle and sheep which had been taken by others or destroyed by hyenas, lions, or panthers.
Such was the statement of a Bushman when heard in his own defence, and it seems to contain a large amount of truth, when compared with whatever collateral evidence can be obtained upon the subject. It seems also a significant fact that Fieldcomet Van der Walt, the very man who was the most active in raising the outcry against the institutions intended for the benefit of the Bushmen, was the one who profited most by their suppression, by possessing himself of a large portion of the lands attached to them and forcing some of the people into his service, even Uithaalder himself, until the treatment he received determined him to escape once more to his native mountains. For several years longer he tenaciously clung to the home of his fathers, until the same tragical fate overtook him as had befallen the rest of his tribe. He and a few faithful followers who had rallied round him were shot by a commando under the same Van der Walt, who was then Field-Commandant, about the year 1827-8, and thus perished the last ruler of the Tooverberg Bushmen.
The Native Races of South Africa
01. Editor's Preface
15. The Koranas
17. The Griquas
24. The Barolong