What Do you Know of the Hadzabe Tribe of Tanzania?

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First, I must admit that up until recently, I had never heard of the Hadzabe tribe of Tanzania. There are 120 different tribes in Tanzania. It is quite by accident that I found out about the Hadzabe tribe! So, I decided to share my findings about the Hadzabe tribe with you.

The Hadzabe or Hadza are an indigenous ethnic group. They live in northern Tanzania near the central Rift Valley and the Serengeti Plateau. Their number is estimated to be under 1000.

The Hadzabe tribe is one of the last hunter-gatherer tribes remaining in the world. One fascinating thing is that their way of living has not changed much over the last 10,000 years!

Language

The first noticeable thing about the Hadzabe people is their language. Their native tongue consists of clicks and pops.

Some linguists have suggested that the clicking sounds are a way for the Hadza people to communicate with each other while hunting. The clicking sounds have little effect on the animals as compared to human voices, which tend to spook the wildlife.

Nowadays, most Hadzabe people speak Swahili fluently as a second language.

Hadzabe Tribe of Tanzania — Tanzanian Woman with Child.
Idobi, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The first noticeable thing about the Hadzabe people is their language. Their native tongue consists of clicks and pops.

Some linguists have suggested that the clicking sounds are a way for the Hadza people to communicate with each other while hunting. The clicking sounds have little effect on the animals as compared to human voices, which tend to spook the wildlife.

Nowadays, most Hadzabe people speak Swahili fluently as a second language.

Social Structure

The Hadza tribe lives in a communal setting of 20-30 people called a camp. There is no tribal hierarchy, and no leader within the community. The Hadzabe people are monogamous.

When there is a conflict between individuals, the dispute gets resolved by the departure from the campsite of one of the individuals!

During the dry season, the Hadza tribe lives in very basic shelters. Their homes are made up of branches, and it only takes a few hours to build.

However, during the wet season, the tribe moves into nearby caves.

The Hadzabe people live a simple life, with little individual possessions. When it is time for them to relocate, this is done very swiftly, as they can carry all of their possessions on their backs.

Hadzabe Tribe of Tanzania — Village Hut of the Hadzabe Tribe, Tanzania, Africa.

The British, and later the Tanzanian government tried to make the Hadzabe people settle down permanently. However, all of their attempts have failed. These bushmen are no farmers, and they are not accustomed to taking care of livestock or growing their food.

The Hadza tribe usually stays for a while in the dwellings provided to them. They always end up going back to their old ways: hunting and foraging.

These settlements also brought with them one big problem: diseases. The Hadza people are especially prone to infectious diseases. Unfortunately, by living in these villages, outbreaks of diseases erupted. As a result, many people died, mainly children from measles.

Because of their isolation from the rest of the world, the Hadzabe tribe has not been exposed to HIV/AIDS as opposed to other tribes in Tanzania.

Subsistence

The Hadza people are very skilled hunters and foragers. They rely solely on the bushes for their subsistence.

These bushmen adjust their diet with the seasons. During the wet season, their diet includes honey, baobab fruits, berries, and tubers. They do not eat much meat because their availability is limited.

However, during the dry season, the meat becomes the main dish with honey, berries, and tubers. The reason for this change in their diet is quite simple. As there is a larger gathering of animals around water holes, this increases the availability of the meat!

Divide and Conquer!

As with many societies, there is a division of labor in the Hadzabe tribe! The men are in charge of hunting, and gathering honey, and baobab fruits. The women bring home the berries, the tubers, and also, the baobab fruits. Usually, a man will accompany the women on their foraging excursions.

The Hadza tribe consumes honey all year round. The technique used to retrieve the honey from the hives of wild bees is quite ingenious!

The men of the tribe use the honey-guide bird to find the beehives. To lure the bird, they mimic the honey-guide bird song, which is a series of whistles and chatters.

Once the communication is established, the bird will take the hunter to the beehives. The man will reach the hive by climbing the tree, and the wild bees are smoked out. The honey is retrieved by the hunter while the bird gets the wax and the bees as a reward!

The hunting technique used by the Hadza tribe has not changed much over the last few hundred years. The men usually hunt alone, except during the dry season, when they will hunt in pairs.

They use bows and poisoned arrows to kill wildlife. The poison used is made from the branches of the shrub called Adenium coetaneum.

When the hunters kill a small animal, such as a squirrel or a bird, they cook and eat their catch on the spot! When they kill a medium-size animal such as a baboon, they will bring it back to their camps and share it with the others.

Hadzabe Tribe of Tanzania — Two Hadzabe Men Returning from Hunting, Tanzania.
Andreas Lederer, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If the hunters kill a big mammal (giraffe, zebra, buffalo, or wildebeest), instead of moving the animal to the camp, the camp move to the kill site!

Clothing

Most of the Hadza people nowadays, wear western clothing, such as shirts and shorts. There are still some members of the tribe that dresses in a more traditional way by wearing dried animal skins wrapped around their body.

Rituals

The Hadzabe tribe doesn’t believe in an afterlife and doesn’t follow many rules. Still, the Hadza people think that illnesses are due to the violation of the few rules they have in place.

One very famous ritual is the epeme dance. This ceremony occurs on moonless nights after the men have eaten what they called epeme meat. The men put on a ceremonial costume (a cape, a feather headdress, some bells on their legs, and a maraca). Then, one at a time, they dance and sing in front of the women while shaking the maraca.

Another ritual is the Mai-toh-Ko or “female puberty initiation”. In this ritual, all the pubertal girls are covered with animal fat and wear beads as ornaments. Equipped with a fertility stick, they will chase the boys and try to hit them.

Trade

Nowadays, the Hadza people trade with their neighboring tribe, the Isanzu. The items involved in the trade include meat, animal skins, honey, marijuana, tobacco, maize clothes, cooking pots, and a few scraps of iron.

Conclusion

The Hadza people are quite conservative, and they live in remote areas in northern Tanzania. Modern civilization hasn’t influenced them. Their way of living remained unchanged for the last thousand years. The Hadzabe tribe is one of the last remaining tribes that still hunt and forage for their subsistence.

Journey back in time through a visit to the Hadzabe tribe. A unique experience that will give you a new perspective on life!

If you are interested in learning more about Tanzania, you should read my post about Tanzania Wildlife Safaris by clicking here.

If you have any questions about the Hadza tribe of Tanzania or would like to share your thoughts about the African people, please leave a comment below. I am looking forward to hearing from you!

Photo of author

Sonia Zannoni

My name is Sonia, a traveler enthusiast and the CEO of Wildlife Safari Adventures. My goal with Wildlife Safari Adventures is to provide insightful information to help you better plan your African travels. Are you ready to uncover the many facets of the Dark Continent?

6 thoughts on “What Do you Know of the Hadzabe Tribe of Tanzania?”

  1. I’ve always been fascinated by cultures that have stayed true to the ancient ways. One day when the big solar flair hits they may be the only humans remaining.

    Gary

    Reply
    • The Hadzabe people are fascinating. Hopefully, they will resist the modern civilization encroaching on their territory and be around for a few thousand years! Thanks for dropping by!

      Reply
  2. Hi Sonia,
    Very interesting article! You really created a good image of what it would be like to be apart of the tribe! I found it very interesting that they don’t have a leader of their “camp”.

    Reply
    • I know, no leader… I thought it was strange, but they seem to get along, and the Hadzabe tribe is very organized. I sometimes wonder if the world would be better if we didn’t have leaders?

      Reply
  3. Fascinating post, I had heard of a tribe that uses such a language and thought it was because the clicking and popping travelled better over the plains than the spoken voice, but as you correctly pointed out, quite likely it is less disturbing to the wildlife. Now, I know it’s the Hadzabe tribe.
    I’m sure it won’t be long before there is an internet connection in the village!

    Reply
    • The Hadzabe tribe is a nomad tribe. They don’t live in villages. The Tanzanian government tried many times to set up villages for the Hadzabe tribe, and each attempt was unsuccessful. So, I don’t think that they will be connected to the internet any time soon!

      Reply

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