Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Voortrekkers (Afrikaans for pioneers, literally "those who move ahead") were white Afrikaner farmers, then known as Boers, who in the 1830s and 1840s emigrated in what is called the Great Trek from the British controlled Cape Colony into the erstwhile black-populated (depopulated from the difaqane said to have originated from Shaka, the Zulu King) areas north of the Orange River in what is now South Africa.
The Voortrekkers were mainly of Trekboer (migrating farmer) descent living in the eastern frontiers of the Cape. Hence, their ancestors had long established a semi-nomadic existence of trekking into expanding frontiers. A contingent of Voortrekkers migrated into Natal and negotiated a land treaty with the Zulu King Dingane. Upon reconsideration, Dingaan doublecrossed the Voortrekkers, killing their leader Piet Retief along with half of the Voortrekker settlers who had followed them to Natal.
Andries Pretorius filled the leadership vacuum and sought revenge at a battle at Nacome River (called the Battle of Blood River) on 16 December 1838 where the vastly outnumbered Voortrekker contingent defeated the Zulu impis (warriors). This date has hence been known as the "Day of the Vow" as the Voortrekkers made a vow to God that they would honour the date if He were to deliver them from what they viewed as almost insurmountable odds. The Natalia Republic was set up in 1839 but was annexed by Britain in 1843.
Armed conflict, first with the Ndebele under Mzilikazi, then against the Zulus under Dingane, went the Voortrekkers' way, mostly because of the technological superiority of their muzzle-loading rifles. This success led to the establishment of a number of small Boer republics, which slowly coalesced into the Orange Free State and the South African Republic. These two states would survive until their annexation in 1900 by Britain during the Boer War.
The Voortrekkers are commemorated by the Voortrekker Monument located on Monument Hill overlooking Pretoria, the erstwile capital of the South African Republic and the current and historic administrative capital of the Republic of South Africa. Pretoria was named after the Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius.
The Voortrekkers had a distinctive flag. The one depicted to the right was used mainly by the Voortrekkers who followed Hendrik Potgieter , which is why it was also known as Potgieter's flag. A version of this flag was used at Potchefstroom - one of the first independent Boer towns established by local Voortrekkers.
The Voortrekkers is also an Afrikaner youth movement founded in South Africa in 1931 as an Afrikaans-language alternative to the English-speaking Boy Scout movement. The Voortrekkers developed their own identity, represented in what they called their ABC: Afrikanerskap, Burgerskap, Christenskap (Afrikanership, Citizenship, Christianity).
- The Voortrekker Monument.
- History of the Voortrekker monument (in English)
- History of the Voortrekker monument (in Afrikaans)
- The Voortrekkers youth movement.
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