Learning from the Hadzabe

The arrow I made

Submitted by Carolyn Anderson on the 2024 Winter ENWC program in Tanzania

Today we had quite the exciting day with the Hadzabe, Tanzania’s last remaining hunter-gatherer community! We started off the day learning about their tools and equipment, including a tool similar to an axe and hammer combined, their bows, different types of arrows, and the tools that women use for digging. We then ventured away from our campsite in order to collect sticks for arrow making. While we were out, we were able to watch a few of the Hadza harvest honey from not one, but two beehives. And different species, at that! I was so impressed with how easily they found both hives, as I would have had no idea that either of them were there in the trees I was walking right past. The way they created a fire to smoke the bees in the first hive really reminded me of how I smoke my bees at home to mask their alarm pheromone before I work the hive. It made me wonder if modern beekeepers got their knowledge of using smoke from hunter/gatherers like the Hadzabe, or how that knowledge came to be in the first place. After we collected our sticks, we spent the rest of the morning turning them into hours. We used fire to heat the sticks so we could peel off the bark and bend them straight using our teeth and hands. We used kudu tendons to attach the francolin feathers to the end. At every step of the arrow making process, I was continuously impressed by how skilled the Hadza were at making such important tools out of seemingly simple parts. I also really enjoyed getting to make beaded bracelets with the women, as I enjoy similar crafts in my own life. It was great to learn a new way of doing it. After that, I was able to try my hand at using their bows and arrows. It was a lot harder than the fancy compound bows and plastic arrows I am used to, but I didn’t do too shabby. I don’t think I’m quite qualified to hunt with the Hadza yet, but today was a good step in the right direction! (Submitted on January 21, 2024)

Trying out their bow and arrows