Botswana Feature

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Botswana's Tribes

Tswana

The largest tribal group in Botswana, the Tswana, comprise just over half the country's population and mainly live in the eastern part of the country; many Tswana also live in South Africa. Also known as the Batswana, they live mainly in thatch-roof rondavels made of mud and cow dung. They're pastoralists and are tied to the land and their cattle, which are used in negotiating marriages and other rites of passage. Though the tribal structure of the Tswana has changed in modern times, they remain family oriented and still live in villages with the kgosi (chief) as the primary decision-maker. As Botswana has prospered from diamond mining, Tswana society has become more modernized, with many tribe members leaving the family at a young age to seek work in the cities. A large number of Tswana speak English in addition to their tribal language.

Bayei (River Bushmen)

The Bayei, also known as the River Bushmen, live along the tributaries of the Okavango and Chobe rivers in northern and central Botswana. African oral history states that the Bayei came to the region in the 18th century from Central Africa. One of the tribe's great leaders then married one of the women of the San tribe, perhaps as a means of negotiating peace or perhaps to incorporate the tribe into the matrilineal society.

The Bayei are expert fishermen, and they use nets and traps to fish along the waterways and floodplains. The mokoro, a dug-out canoe carved from tree trunks, is also an essential part of their daily life, serving as both transportation along the rivers and an important tool for fishing. The Bayei also farm tobacco and wild corn.

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