The Griqua are often considered to be a racially and culturally mixed people whose origin goes back to the intermarriages or sexual relations between European colonists in the Cape and the Khoikhoi already living there in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This notion apparently derives from the name given in 1813 by Rev. John Campbell of the London Missionary Society (LMS) to a mixed group of Chariguriqua (a Cape Khoikhoi group), 'bastaards', Koranna, and Tswana living at the site of present day Griekwastad (formerly "Klaarwater"). Their proud name, Bastaards, was viewed as offensive to the British resulting in this change by the LMS. Because of a common ancestor named Griqua, and shared links to the Chariguriqua (Grigriqua), the people officially changed their name to the Griqua. According to Isaac Tirion, by 1730 the Grigriquas already lived in this northeastern section of the Cape Colony.
In the nineteenth century, the Griqua controlled several political entities that were governed by Kapteins (Afrikaans for "Captain", i.e. leader) and their Councils, with their own written constitutions. Adam Kok I, the first Kaptein of the Griqua - a European-slave mix himself - led his people north from the interior of the Cape Colony. Likely due to the received discrimination of his people, they again moved north; this time outside of the Cape, near the Orange River, just west of the Orange Free State, and on the southern skirts of the Transvaal. The Griqua largely adopted the Afrikaans language before their migrations. This area is where most of the tribe settled; some remained nomadic.
Andries Waterboer - leader after Kok I - founded Griqualand West, and controlled it until the intruding influx of Whites accompanying the discovery of diamonds. In 1834, the Cape Colony recognized Waterboer’s rights to his land and people, and a treaty was signed to ensure payment for the use of the land for mining. Not long after 1843, the competition between the Cape Colony, Orange Free State, and the Transvaal became too much for the Griqua, and they migrated east – now led by Adam Kok III – to establish Griqualand East, a hopeful haven. But Griqualand East only lasted for mere months before its annexation into the Cape Colony in 1874.
Both Griqualands, East and West, were dissolved into European colonies, and the Griqua themselves became part of the ethnic group known generally to Whites as the Coloureds.
The total Griqua population is unknown. The people were submerged by a number of factors. The most prominent being the Apartheid era during which many of the Griqua people took on the mantle of "Coloured" fearing that their Griqua roots might place them at a lower level with the Africans. What is known is that a substantial proportion of coloured people have "Griqua roots" (ie Hottentot forefathers). This Griqua heritage is all too often looked at with disdain.
Genetic evidence indicates that the majority of the present Griqua population is a racial mix of European genes dating back to the times of van Riebeeck mixed with Khoikhoi and, later, indigenous African (mainly Tswana) peoples, with only small contributions of Bushman..
The Griqua people are represented in the National Khoisan Consultative Conference (Nasionale Khoe-San Oorlegplegende Konferensie) established in Oudtshoorn in 2001 and that represents the Capoid first nation peoples of South Africa and parttakes in research and development projects in cooperation with the government of the Western Cape Province and with the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein. Especially prominent are members of the influential le Feur clan.
The Griqua have their own church, the Griqua Church, which is Protestant with a strong focus on maintaining the Griqua identity.
One of several disputed theories as to the origin of Bloemfontein's name connects it to the Griqua leader Jan Bloem (1775-1858), although this may be a coincidence as Bloemfontein is Dutch for "Spring of bloom," "flower spring," or "fountain of flowers."