Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Bechuanas, a widespread South African Bantu race, whose domain extends from the Orange river north to the Zambesi, and from Namaqua and Damara lands east to the Orange Free State, Transvaal and Matabililand. This region comprises politically the British Crown colony of South Bechuanaland, 50,000 square miles, population 53,000, together with the British protectorates of North Bechuanaland, including Khama's Territory and Lake Ngamiland, 200,000 square miles, population about 500,000; total 250,000 square miles, population 550,000, exclusive of the Basutos, who are an eastern division of the same people. The chief tribal divisions, some constituting important nationalities, and till recently powerful independent states, are: 1. Baharutse (Barotse), west of the Upper Limpopo, on northwest frontier Transvaal; 2. Batlapi ("Fish People") Griqualand West; 3. Batlaro, southernmost of all the Bechuanas, west frontier Griqualand, now mostly absorbed in the Batlapi group; 4. Barolong, between the Molopo river and the tributaries of the Kuruman; 5. Bakatla, Gamcohopa district; 6. Bawanketsi, Khanye district, Upper Limpopo basin; 7. Bakwena, north of the Bawanketsi territory; 8. Bachwapeng, the hilly district south of Shoshong; 9. Basilika, east of Shoshong near left bank Limpopo; 10. Bakalahari (Balala), the Bechuanas of the Kalahari desert; 11. Bamangwato, Khama's people, most powerful of all the Bechuanas, Ngamiland, capital, Shoshong; 12. Maltololo of the Zambesi. The Bechuanas, chiefly sedentary shepherds and agriculturists, are amongst the most intelligent of all Bantu peoples, and Khama, chief of the Bamangwatos, has displayed remarkable qualities as a ruler and reformer of his people. The system of totemism is largely developed among the tribes, many of whom take their names from the object, generally an animal, which they regard as their tutelar deity, offering it a kind of worship expressed by the word lino, to dance. Thus the Bechuanas probably take their name from the Cape baboon (chuene) still the totem of the Barotse or elder branch; the Bakatlas revere the katla, another species of ape; the Bakwenas venerate the hwena (crocodile), and so on. The Bechuana language, which is spoken with considerable dialectic variety, presents greater affinity to the Zulu-Kafir than to any other Bantu idiom; about 50 per cent. of the words are absolutely identical, while most of the rest diverge according to fixed phonetic laws. It has been reduced to writing by the missionaries, who have been successful in evangelising several of the tribes. The first English mission of Littaku was founded before the year 1820, and French Protestant missionaries have worked in the same field since 1830. See Livingstone's Missionary Travel's (1857); Rev. E. Salomon, Two lectures on the Native Tribes, etc. (1855); G. Fritsch, Bemerkungen, etc., in Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft fur Erdkunde, Berlin, 1868, and recent Blue Books.