National Geographic : 2009 Dec
a classroom. If they went to school, many told me, they d never master the skills needed for survival. ey d be outcasts among their own people. And if they tried their luck in the mod- ern world---what then? e women, perhaps, could become maids; the men, menial laborers. It s far better, they said, to be free and fed in the bush than destitute and hungry in the city. More Hadza have moved to the traditionally Hadza area of Mangola, at the edge of the bush, where, in exchange for money, they demonstrate their hunting skills to tourists. These Hadza have proved that their culture is of signi cant interest to outsiders and a potential source of income. Yet among the Hadza of Mangola there has also been a surge in alcoholism, an outbreak of tuberculosis, and a distressing rise in domes- tic violence, including at least one report of a Hadza man who beat his wife to death. ough the youngsters in Onwas s group show little interest in the outside world, the world is coming to them. After two million years, the age of the hunter-gatherer is over. e Hadza may hold on to their language; they may dem- onstrate their abilities to tourists. But it s only a matter of time before there are no more tradi- tional Hadza scrambling in the hills with their bows and arrows, stalking baboons. U p on the hill Onwas has led us to, clutch- ing my knife, I crouch behind Maduru as the baboon moves along a n of rock. And then, abruptly, the baboon stops. He swivels his head. He is so close we could reach out to each other and make contact. I stare into his eyes, too frightened to even blink. is lasts maybe a second. Maduru doesn t shoot, possibly because the animal is too close and could attack us if wounded---it s o en the poison, not the arrow, that kills. An instant later the baboon leaps away into the bushes. ere is silence for a couple of heartbeats. Then I hear frantic yelping and crashing. It s coming from the far side of the rock, and I can t tell if it is human or baboon. It s both. We thrash through bushes, half-tumbling, half-running, until we reach a clearing amid a copse of acacias. And there it is: the baboon. On his back, mouth open, limbs splayed. Shot by Giga. A nudge with a toe con rms it---dead. Maduru whistles and shouts, and soon the other hunters arrive. Onwas kneels and pulls the arrow out of the baboon s shoulder and hands it back to Giga. e men stand around the baboon in a circle, examin- ing the kill. ere is no ceremony. e Hadza are not big on ritual. ere is not much room in their lives, it seems, for mysticism, for spirits, for pondering the unknown. ere is no spe- ci c belief in an a erlife---every Hadza I spoke with said he had no idea what might happen a er he died. ere are no Hadza priests or sha- mans or medicine men. Missionaries have pro- duced few converts. I once asked Onwas to tell me about God, and he said that God was blind- ingly bright, extremely powerful, and essential for all life. God, he told me, was the sun. The most important Hadza ritual is the epeme dance, which takes place on moonless nights. Men and women divide into separate groups. e women sing while the men, one at a time, don a feathered headdress and tie bells around their ankles and strut about, stomping their right foot in time with the singing. Sup- posedly, on epeme nights, ancestors emerge from the bush and join the dancing. One night when I watched the epeme, I spotted a teenage boy, Mataiyo, sneak into the bush with a young woman. Other men fell asleep a er their turn dancing. Like almost every aspect of Hadza life, the ceremony was informal, with a strictly individual choice of how deeply to participate. EVER SEEN A BABOON UP CLOSE? THEIR TEETH ARE DESIGNED FOR RIPPING FLESH. AND WE ARE PROVOKING THEM. THE HADZA ARE ARMED WITH BOWS AND ARROWS. I HAVE A POCKETKNIFE.