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1740-1871 - Griqualand

The Griquas were originally a tribe of Hottentots living near Piquetberg in the Cape Colony, but of mixed blood, many of them being half-castes, the offspring of Hottentot women by Dutch Boers. In the upper countries of the Orange River, among other tribes, dwell also the so-called Bastard Hottentots, who were descended from Europeans and natives. They were never placed on an equal footing with Europeans, and yet did not choose to dwell among the Hottentots; hence they got together beyond the bounds of the colony.

Among the old Hottentot tribes in the days of the early Dutch settlement there was a clan belonging to the Cochoqua group which was variously called Chariguriqua and Grigriqua. In 1652 they were said to be without any hereditary chief, and sixty-one years later, or in 1713, Kolben states that their descendants were living near St. Helena Bay. There does not therefore appear any reason for doubting that it was from this tribe the modern Griquas derived their name. Although since 1813 the whole of them had adopted the appellation of Griqua, a large majority of them were not only descendants of the Hottentot tribe, but of the Dutch colonists also. The larger portion of those included under this designation were formerly called Bastaards, a name which, however distasteful to European notions, was one of which they were originally particularly proud. The preponderance of the Dutch element among them was shown by the Dutch language being spoken by the more influential majority and by its superseding that of the purely Hottentot minority.

The Griqua people vaguely became aware of a group identity around 1800 when a group of migrant farmers of mostly Khoi, but also European and slave descent, searching for land of their own, settled at Klaarwater north of the Gariep River. On their long trek from the south-western Cape they had passing contact with the Girgriqua or Chariguriqua Khoi clan but they called themselves bastards. However, the Rev John Campbell, a missionary who worked among them, thought the name was offensive to an English ear and persuaded them to adopt the name Griqua and rename their settlement Griquatown.

Formerly they lived farther south in the Cape Province, but about the middle of the 19th century they migrated beyond the Orange River under their chiefs Waterboer and Adam Kok. Subsequently the latter, with some followers, moved east to the district later known as Griqualand East. The country of the Western Griquas was a desolate upland 4000 feet in altitude, but contained the richest diamond fields in the world. The discovery of diamonds north of the Orange River, an event which gave great impetus to all affairs of the colony, was made in 1867, and in the following years people from all parts of the world flocked to the fields. These lie in the eastern portion of the territory known as Griqua Land West, which, as a consequence of the discovery, was annexed to the British Empire in 1871.

In a report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Aborigines, they are thus described: In 1800, when their first missionary, Mr. Anderson, went among them, they were a horde of wandering naked savages, subsisting by plunder and the chase. Their bodies were daubed with red paint, their heads loaded with grease and shining powder, with no covering but the filthy kaross over their shoulders. Without knowledge, without morals, or any trace of civilization, they were wholly abandoned to witchcraft, drunkenness, licentiousness, and all the consequences which arise from the unchecked growth of such vices.

Adam Kok I (f.1710-95) left the Cape Colony during the early 18th century with a few Cape coloured (i.e. mixed) followers. In 1740, Adam Kok I, believed to have been an emancipated slave, acquired grazing rights in the Piketberg area. By all accounts, Kok was an astute man and a natural leader. In the year 1788 the chieftainship was in the hands of one Adam Kok, a very old man, of mixed race, born about 1710. The name of Kok, i.e., Cook, is said to be derived from the circumstance of one of his progenitors having served as a cook to a Dutch Governor. Adam Kok held an appointment as chief from the Dutch Government, from whom he received a captain's staff as the insignia of his office. In 1795 he removed to near the Orange River, and becoming too old and feeble for the cares of Government, transferred his chieftainship and staff of office to his eldest son, Cornelius, born in 1746.

Cornelius obtained great influence among all the natives. He appears to have been a "mighty hunter" and to have conciliated his neighbours as much by supplying them with the proceeds of the chase as by treating them with kindness; they were also doubtless influenced by the power of a man whose followers were armed with guns in a country where such weapons were previously unknown. He led a wandering hunter's life, and subdued and absorbed into his own tribe most of the wandering Kora (Koranna) tribes with whom he came in contact; he was by accident, during one of his hunting excursions, the first discoverer of the Batlapin tribes (the first known branch of the Bechuana nation) who were then found at a place called Kamapiri on the Kuruman River. Cornelius was the means of saving these Batlapins from destruction by a horde of marauding Koras under a half-caste Boer, named Jan Bloem, and his bare threat that he would report him to the Colonial authorities was sufficient, without the use of force, to induce the bandit and his gang to give up their unlawful trade and become subject to Cornelius Kok, and settle down quietly at Hardcastle, not far from the site of Griqua Town.

A Bushman called October Balie, who was found living there, was supposed to have some right to the land, for which the Chief Dam Kok paid him one hundred and fifty rix-dollars. It seems that this Dam Kok, who had remained alone in charge of his tribe during the long absence of his father and brothers in the Colony, had, from his frequent contact with Bushmen, Kora, and other predatory tribes, lost more or less of the civilized habits of his relatives, and he gradually became more and more averse to peaceable agricultural pursuits and a settled life, winking at marauding expeditions engaged in by his people, and even engaging in them himself, until in 1819 he finally abandoned Griqua Town.

On the desertion of Griqua Town by Dam Kok, and the consequent absence of any ruler over that portion of the tribe which remained and adhered to their agriculture and civilized usages, the Missionaries induced them to elect a chief, and consequently in the latter part of 1819, at a meeting of the whole Griqua people at Griqua Town, and which old Dam Kok himself attended, he abdicated his chieftainship, and the unanimous choice fell upon Andries Waterboer. From the date of his accession Andries Waterboer made it his business to redress wrong, suppress brigandage, and gradually, by these means, to bring under his own rule, not only those whom he punished as marauders, but those who needed his protection, and he thus absorbed into his own tribe many wandering hordes of Kora and Bushmen, besides Bechuanaa.

Griqualand East was a native territory of the Cape Province, South Africa, bounded northeast by Natal, southeast by Pondoland, south by Tembuland, west by Barkly East, and northwest by Basutoland (Map: Cape of Good Hope, J 8). Area, 7594 square miles. The population in 1911 was 249,038, including 7944 whites. Since 1875 it had been under the jurisdiction of the Cape. The capital, Kokstad, was named after Adam Kok, the Griqua chief who went to the district with 15,000 Griquas, a hybrid of Dutch and native origin.

Griqualand West was q northern district of the Cape Province, South Africa, bounded north and west by Bechuanaland, east by the Orange Free State, and south by the Orange River (Map: Cape of Good Hope, F 7). Area, 15,197 square miles. Pop., 1891, 83,375, including 29,670 whites; 1904, 108,498, including 32,570 whites. Its famous diamond fields were discovered in 1867, when the territory belonged to Waterboer, a native chief. The disturbances caused by boundary disputes with the Orange Free State and Transvaal Republic resulted in Waterboer's consent to the annexation of Griqualand by Great Britain in 1871. It was incorporated as four of the 77 divisions of Cape Colony on Oct. 1, 1880. The principal towns are Kimberley (capital), De Beers, Griqua Town, Douglas, Belmont, and Barkly.

When Andrew Le Fleur became paramount chief of the Griqua people in 1894, he devoted himself to reclaiming Griqua land in Griqualand East. However, his actions had led to his being branded an agitator and he was arrested for inciting rebellion. He was found guilty of high treason on 29 April 1898 and sentenced to 14 years hard labour at the Breakwater Prison. He served nearly six years when he was pardoned after the Anglo Boer war.

During the days of race classification they were classified as a sub-group of the coloured people. Their Griqua representatives sat in the Coloured Persons' Representative Council since the 1980's and their present paramount chief was a member of the previous government's President's Council. Not even that brought them any nearer to their own land and an acknowledgement of a group identity.

By the year 2000 there were some 20 000 Griquas living all over South Africa. However scattered, they regard themselves as a nation. They have their own church with 24 congregations and a culture, which is indissolubly connected with their religion. They hold an annual national gathering or saamtrek of office-bearers. And they still have a paramount chief presiding over a council of chiefs and an executive.

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Page last modified: 25-10-2012 15:44:15 ZULU