The Griqua people have their origins in the 17th and 18th centuries. Early Dutch settlers in the Cape formed relationships with the local Khoi people. Their mixed race children grew up speaking Dutch, but did not have the same social or legal status as their white fathers. The colonial authorities formed them into mounted armed commandos, responsible for protecting the new colony’s frontiers against the local Khoi and San populations.
Frustrated by the limitations imposed by the colonial authorities on their rights and freedoms, groups of Griqua migrated from the Cape into the interior. Some moved as far north and west as modern day Namibia.
These groups established four short-lived Griqua states. Griqualand East was one of these. It was founded in the early 1860s by Adam Kok III, and was located between the Umzimkulu and Kinira Rivers. The community was centred on the town of Kokstad, named in honour of its leader.
The territory was taken over by the British Empire in 1874. It was administered by the British as a separate colony for several years, but was incorporated into the Cape Colony in 1879. Under apartheid, the area was incorporated into the Xhosa ‘homeland’ of the Transkei.