The gateway to the Kamiesberg and Namaqua National Park. The town is situated along the N7, 67km south of Springbok, and 47km north of Garies. The name Kamieskroon comes from the Kamiesberg range which seems to surround the village and the latter is thus in the middle part of the crown. This is what Dr WP Steenkamp, founder of the village who named it, saw from the top of the original pass.
Veldkos” and Medicinal Plants
The descendants of the Nama-speaking Khoe pastoralists still rely on indigenous foods for sustenance. The elderly often have a very detailed knowledge of edible and medicinal plants. More than 75 different edible plant species have been identified in the region, amongst the most famous being “raap” (Cyanella hyacinthoides), “kambro” (Fockea comaru), “Pietsnot” (Grielum humifusum) and “kannie/jakkalskos” (Hydnora africana). There are more than 45 different species of plants used for medicinal purposes, such as the “Jantjie-Bêrend” (Sutherlandia frutescens) which is used for stomach ailments, the “kankerbos” (Nymania capensis), “ballerja” (Mentha longifolia), “rooistorm” (Galium tomentosum) and “kruidjie-roer-my-nie” (Melianthus comosus).
The Succulent Karoo
The Kamiesberg region falls within the Succulent Karoo Biome, one of 34 global biodiversity hotspots, indicating an area with unusually large numbers of plants and animals in a very small area that is under threat. With more than 6300 plant species, 431 species of birds, 68 species of mammals, 121 specials of reptiles, 17 species of amphibians and an unknown number of insects, it is the world’s most diverse, arid environment. The Kamiesberg mountain range boasts approximately 900 plant species, with 49 endemic. On top of the mountain range you will find fynbos and renosterbosveld. Namaqualand has only 35 tree species, which are relics from a wet tropical era millions of years ago. The Acacia erioloba, Camel thorn tree, entered the area only about 4 000 years ago, and is actually a summer rainfall species. It is into this diverse environment that the first stock farmer moved about 2 000 years ago.
The Cultural History
The history of the Kamiesberg region in Namaqualand stretches back thousands of years. The San (hunter-gather people) inhabited the region for thousands of years, moving seasonally after game, edible plants and water. The first herder people crossed the Gariep River into South Africa as far back as 2 100 years ago. Evidence for hunter-gatherers and herders is dotted all over Namaqualand along the Gariep River, along the coast, in caves and on the rocky outcrops. The descendants of the herder people are still living in the Kamiesberg region today, alas having lost a great deal of their original culture and traditions. During colonial times, in the 1700s, the Europeans moved in and settled as stock farmers. The Namaqualand cultural landscape has been completely altered by the advent of copper and diamond mining. Thus, apart from diverse natural landscapes, the cultural landscape of the Kamiesberg includes the descendants of the San people (hunter-gatherers); the descendants of the Namaqua Khoekhoen (original herder peoples) which include the present-day communal stock farmers; commercial stock farmers (who are mostly white Afrikaners who are descendants from various European groups) as well as the townspeople and community\village people from a variety of backgrounds.
The Namaqua People
Namaqualand derives its name from a Khoekhoen tribal group called the Little Namaqua, who, together with the Great Namaqua of Namibia, is a Nama-speaking branch of the Khoekhoen. The region is of considerable archaeological interest as it lies on one of the routes primarily used for the dispersal of immigrant Khoekhoen and domestic stock into Southern Africa. In 1661 Jan van Riebeek sent Pieter Cruijthoff into the hinderland to search for food supplies from the local indigenous peoples. He met the first little Namaquas, 700 under Chief Akembie, in the vicinity of the Olifants River on the coast. Olaf Bergh, on his expedition in 1683, came across some Namaqua ‘kraals’ on the Kamiesberg, and in 1685, when Simon Van Der Stel travelled to Namaqualand in search of copper, he too encountered Namaqua ‘kraals’ in the area.
The five rural reserves of Namaqualand were established around mission stations during the mid 19th century, with Leliesfontein receiving its Ticket of Occupation in 1854. Here small groups of Namaqua descendants established themselves as stock farmers, moving seasonally between the mountains and the plains. The Namaquas were a pastoralist people who moved seasonally with their cattle and sheep in search of pasture and water. They lived in circular houses, covered in reed mats.
A Namaqua Cultural Experience
The Kamiesberg mountain range stretches from Garies in the south to Springbok in the north. It forms the plateau between the Sandveld on the west coast and Bushmanland in the east and stretches like a spine down the middle of Namaqualand. The N7 runs through the centre of the region. It is generally accepted that the word Kamiesberg comes from the Nama words – “!kammie”, which means to envelope and //ams, which means water – the mountain of water, bundled or enveloped together. The name Kamiesberg was already given to the mountain range in 1816 and is today used to describe the municipal area.