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From the soul of Africa, an Alternative Nobel Prize winner speaks

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My name is Roy Sesana; I am a Gana Bushman from the Kalahari in what is now
called Botswana. In my language, my name is "Tobee" and our land is
"T//amm." We have been there longer than any people have been anywhere.

When I was young, I went to work in a mine. I put off my skins and wore
clothes. But I went home after a while. Does that make me less Bushman? I
don't think so.

I am a leader. When I was a boy, we did not need leaders and we lived well.
Now we need them because our land is being stolen and we must struggle to
survive. It doesn't mean I tell people what to do; it's the other way
around -- they tell me what I have to do to help them.

I cannot read. You wanted me to write this speech, so my friends helped,
but I cannot read words -- I'm sorry! But I do know how to read the land
and the animals. All our children could. If they didn't, they would have
all died long ago.

I know many who can read words and many, like me, who can only read the
land. Both are important. We are not backward or less intelligent: we live
in exactly the same up-to-date year as you. I was going to say we all live
under the same stars, but no, they're different, and there are many more in
the Kalahari. The sun and moon are the same.

I grew up a hunter. All our boys and men were hunters. Hunting is going and
talking to the animals. You don't steal. You go and ask. You set a trap or
go with bow or spear. It can take days. You track the antelope. He knows
you are there; he knows he has to give you his strength. But he runs and
you have to run. As you run, you become like him. It can last hours and
exhaust you both. You talk to him and look into his eyes. And then he knows
he must give you his strength so your children can live.

When I first hunted, I was not allowed to eat. Pieces of the steenbok were
burnt with some roots and spread on my body. This is how I learned.

It's not the same way you learn, but it works well.

The farmer says he is more advanced than the backward hunter, but I don't
believe him. His herds give no more food than ours. The antelope are not
our slaves, they do not wear bells on their necks and they can run faster
than the lazy cow or the herder. We run through life together.

When I wear the antelope horns, it helps me talk to my ancestors and they
help me. The ancestors are so important: We would not be alive without
them. Everyone knows this in their heart, but some have forgotten. Would
any of us be here without our ancestors? I don't think so.

I was trained as a healer. You have to read the plants and the sand. You
have to dig the roots and become fit. You put some of the root back for
tomorrow, so one day your grandchildren can find it and eat. You learn what
the land tells you.

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When the old die, we bury them and they become ancestors. When there is
sickness, we dance and we talk to them; they speak through my blood. I
touch the sick person and can find the illness and heal it.

We are the ancestors of our grandchildren's children. We look after them,
just as our ancestors look after us. We aren't here for ourselves. We are
here for each other and for the children of our grandchildren.

Why am I here? Because my people love their land, and without it we are
dying. Many years ago, the president of Botswana said we could live on our
ancestral land forever. We never needed anyone to tell us that. Of course
we can live where God created us! But the next president said we must move
and began forcing us away.

They said we had to go because of diamonds. Then they said we were killing
too many animals, but that's not true. They say many things that aren't
true. They said we had to move so the government could develop us. The
president says unless we change we will perish like the dodo. I didn't know
what a dodo was. But I found out: it was a bird that was wiped out by
settlers. The president was right. They are killing us by forcing us off
our land. We have been tortured and shot at. They arrested me and beat me.

Thank you for the Right Livelihood Award. It is global recognition of our
struggle and will raise our voice throughout the world. When I heard I had
won I had just been let out of prison. They say I am a criminal as I stand
here today.

I say: What kind of development is it when the people live shorter lives
than before? They catch HIV/AIDS. Our children are beaten in school and
won't go there. Some become prostitutes. They are not allowed to hunt. They
fight because they are bored and get drunk. They are starting to commit
suicide. We never saw that before. It hurts to say this. Is this
"development"?

We are not primitive. We live differently to you, but we do not live
exactly like our grandparents did, nor do you. Were your ancestors
"primitive"? I don't think so. We respect our ancestors. We love our
children. This is the same for all people.

We now have to stop the government from stealing our land. Without it, we
will die.

If anyone has read a lot of books and thinks I am primitive because I have
not read even one, then he should throw away those books and get one that
says we are all brothers and sisters under God and we, too, have a right to
live.

That is all. Thank you.

Roy Sesana, Gana Bushman, is a founder of First People of the Kalahari, a
non-governmental organization within Botswana, Africa. This acceptance
speech was delivered Dec. 9 in Stockholm, Sweden, on the occasion of his
being honored with the Right Livelihood Award.