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Rupert Isaacson  







Kalahari Bushmen; Indigenous peoples' rights  

NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
9 Sep 2004

  • United States
    San Bernardino County
  • Angelus Oaks; Alpine Meadows Camp
  • 34.165305   -116.85104
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
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  • Stereo=1; Split Track

Show: Bushmen of the Kalahari - CJ/ Rupert Isaacson interview
Log of DAT #: 3
Engineer: Leo Del Aguila
Date: September 9, 2004

At The Gathering: An Alliance Of Elders, Healers And Wisdomkeepers Alpine Meadows Camp, Big Bear, California September 9 - 12, 2004

CJ: (00:40): So when we speak about Bushmen, who are we talking about, who are the bushmen?

RI: (00:45): Well the Bushmen are, according to a lot of scientists the oldest people on the planet. Where they live is in Southern Africa. And if you can imagine the bottom end of Southern Africa being like a big V, the interior end of that V is a high, dry, arid grassland that covers large chunks of about six countries, that's the Kalahari, that's where they live.

CJ: (01:15): There are two groups of Bushmen that have come to the United States for a journey around the country, the Bushmen of South Africa and the Bushmen of Botswana, who are the Bushmen from South Africa?

RI: (01:26): The Bushmen from South Africa are from a group called the Khomeini, it was thought that there were no Bushmen left in South Africa. It turned out there were when Mandela came to power. They surfaced again, they had been living more or less as vagrants by the side of the road. They hired a human rights lawyer, and by hook and by crook, managed to win the largest land claim in southern African history in 1999. The traditional leader of that group, a guy called Daweed Krepa, looked at the rest of the Kalahari and saw that the same process of dispossession was happening up in Botswana. He said to me, okay Rupert, you've written this book now, your next task is to use this book as a platform to help the Bushmen remind the west that they exist. So, we put together a trip on Daweed's orders, of which is partly represented by the Khomeini of South Africa and partly represented by the Ganakwe in Botswana who are currently facing the same dispossession process that the Khomeini faced 25 years ago.

CJ: (02:40): And where are you going on this trip? Where did it begin and where does it end?

RI: (02:44): Well we're going coast to coast, we're going to end up at the United Nations in New York, and on the way we are going to hit up as many sides of America as we can partly to spread the message as widely as we can, and partly also so that the Bushmen can understand something about the diversity that is here. So we began in Hollywood, no in fact we began at a charity polo match, there is a group of women polo players who play polo for indigenous groups around the world and they raised some money through polo matches to help get the Bushmen over here, so we went to one of their matches. Then we went to a party in Hollywood which was thrown by Amnesty International for us, and they met celebrities like Dave Matthews and Jackson Brown, then we did some events in South Central LA so the African American community wanted to meet them and offer support. Now we are up here because one of the other things the Bushmen wanted to do was to meet with leaders, healers and elders from other indigenous groups around the world. That happens right here in Big Bear every year. From here we then travel through the South West, we are going to be guests of the Hopi tribe of the Navajos, hopefully the Pueblo. We'll be in Santa Fe briefly doing another fundraiser, then we fly to DC. In DC we go up to Capital Hill, talk to law makers in the situation in Botswana, then we go up finally up to the United Nations in New York where they will put their case. And then they fly to Europe and do it all again.

CJ: (04:29): It's a little awkward because we will be using this interview with you on the hike, and we won't be coming to the gathering, because we can't explain about the Gathering in this piece. So you will have been in Hollywood, you would have been to the Hollywood party, up to the Polo game. (Dijeridoo sounds, CJ: Oh yes, Richard, wonderful Richard up until this moment¿.) (5:19) It's from LA, you'll be going to visit with the Hopi, I mean you can say you are going to the gathering, or you went to the gathering, or you're going to the Gathering, to go to the Hopi, to visit with Native Americans across the country, and you're going to end in Washington, to the press conference, because we will be airing it that day I think. Any thing you want to say about the press conference.

RI: (05:47): I completely forgot, thank you for reminding me.

CJ: (05:49): Because that's important.

RI: (05:50): Where shall I start from again, shall I just give the itinerary again, in which case is that possible¿With this? (dijeridoo is continuing to sound in background every couple seconds.) Leo and CJ and Rupert are figuring out how and where to record with dij in background.

CJ: (06:40): SO where are the Bushmen going from California?

RI: (06:44): From California they are going, first they are going to a gathering of healers and shamans that happens every year up in the mountains in Big Bear called The Gathering. They are going to meet with other indigenous leaders and healers. Then they go through the South West to stay with the Hopi tribe, the Navajo tribe, hopefully the Pueblo, a fundraiser in Santa Fe, then to DC. Once in DC they will go up onto Capitol Hill and speak to law makers, but they are also going to give a press conference at the national press club on Friday the 24th of September 9am to 11am, so we would love to see media down there, and they are going to put their case, and talk about the dispossessions and talk about their court case with the Botswana government. Then from there we drive on the 25th up to New York, spend a couple days there on the morning of the 27th they put their case before the UN, on the 28th they fly up to Europe and begin the process again.

CJ: (07:41): One other thing, two other things. What is the essence of the land claim in Botswana?

RI: (07:47): Because of the system of land tenure in Botswana, they cannot ask for legal title to the land, they can only ask for ratification of their existing but now dishonored rights, which were granted to them in 1991 when the Central Kalahari Game Reserve was declared, which was the right to dwell, to hunt and gather, to take water, and to graze a certain amount of livestock. All they are asking is to have that restored to them, and then in addition to be brought into the decision making process of any development that is going to happen on their ancestral land.

CJ: (08:30): And what is the status of the land claim in the courts right now.

RI: (00:40): Currently adjourned. Unfortunately the lawyers for the Bushmen exist completely on donor money. It has run dry until November, it comes back to court on November 3rd, they are busy scrambling for money right now

CJ: (08:51): On the land, in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, there is a great interest on the part of diamond miners to explore for diamonds. How do the Bushmen feel about their rights to those diamonds?

RI: (09:12): The Bushmen seem to feel that there's no reason why diamonds shouldn't be mined there. It is a very very big place, and they are aware that it is an important part of the Botswana economy. They just don't want to be dispossessed, and they want to be part of the decision making process.

CJ: (10:06): Okay, good, thank you¿

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