The Herero nation moved south into Namibia, it is thought, during the 16th century. According to their oral history they came from an area of much water and grass and many reeds, probably west of Lake Tanganyika, and entered Namibia between the Kunene and Okavango Rivers. There is no certainty however, about the timing or the route followed by those who moved south from Kaokoland into the south western and central regions of Namibia. That there was contact with the Bechuana, who in earlier times were in areas northeast of Okahandja, is generally accepted as the time of their arrival in the Okahandja district, which is estimated as about 1790.
During the last ten to fifteen years of the 19th century, the Herero settled down in the areas around Okahandja, Waterberg/Okakarara and eastwards, Omaruru and Otjimbingwe. Conflict between the Herero and the Nama caused major problems for both groups and both sides suffered casualties and cattle thieving. This resulted in the German government sending the Schutztruppe (“Protective Force”) to Namibia to quell the conflicts. Subsequent developments brought the Herero into conflict with the Schutztruppe and after a terrible battle at the Waterberg, the Herero were defeated and many of them fled east into Botswana. All land utilized by the Herero was confiscated by the authorities and in 1920 a number of reserves: Ovitoto, Epukiro, Waterberg-East, Aminuis and Otjituuo were created by the SWA Administration, for exclusive use by the surviving few thousands of Herero.
The Herero are a very proud people and the observance of their cultural traditions is very important to them. They traditionally practiced ancestral worship but the work of missionaries over the years has considerably reduced these activities in most areas. The ancestral fire, through which they communicated with their ancestors, who in turn communicated with God, called Mukuru, is still kept burning in a number of remote villages.
Each year in August, the Herero pay respects to their ancestors buried in Okahandja. The men march in their splendid military uniforms, some copied from the South African Scottish Regiments of the First World War, and the women parade in stately gowns, reminiscent of the Victorian era.