You are on page 1of 13

Cosmology as Ecological Analysis: A View from the Rain Forest Author(s): G. Reichel-Dolmatoff Source: Man, New Series, Vol.

11, No. 3 (Sep., 1976), pp. 307-318 Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2800273 . Accessed: 16/08/2013 18:02
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Man.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded from 132.206.27.25 on Fri, 16 Aug 2013 18:02:38 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

AS ECOLOGICAL COSMOLOGY A VIEW FROM THE RAIN

ANALYSIS: FOREST*

G. REICHEL-DOLMATOFF
Los Angeles ofCalifornia, University capacity is Amazon,carrying Northwest of theColombian AmongtheTukanoIndians resources such as game, fish andcertain ofprotein oftheconservation interms mainly defmed relocation of settleand to avoidfrequent an equilibrium to maintain In order wildfruits. whichcontrol rules behavioural adaptive a setofhighly havedeveloped ments, theIndians aggresand interpersonal environment, of thenatural theexploitation growth, population and,simioverhunting restricts causeillness of gameanimals that thespirits sion.The belief and thebirth-rate try to adjust sexandfoodhabits regulate that a large bodyofbeliefs larly, in force thus becomes a powerful Shamanism behaviour. disruptive socially tocounterbalance visions induced andhallucinatory bynative resources, ofnatural thecontrol andmanagement Tukano power.In manyaspects tool of shamanistic becomean important drugs narcotic acute andtheIndians' adaptation forecological a blueprint represent ofcosmology concepts withmodern systems canbe compared analysis. norms adaptive oftheneedfor awareness

of tropical image of theIndiantribes timesthecultural Untilrelatively recent peopleswhose and hostile primitive has been thatof a groupof rather America and whoselevelofsocialcomhad beennegligible to humanthought contribution oftheOld World. societies ofmostaboriginal farbelow that had remained plexity Mayasand Mexicans, of America-theancient civilisations In fact, onlythehigher social, elaborate fairly withhavingcreated credited occasionally Peruvians-were beenexcaseseldomhas there butevenin their institutions, and religious political an approaching or something systems, of nativephilosophical plicitdiscussion led to believethatthetropical one was almost Sometimes world-view. integrated which,in a sense,were incomplete; societies; societies forest Indianswere fossil to teachus. Theywere'out of themainwhichhad notevolvedand had nothing thesubject of societies stream' somepeoplesaid,and thoseof us who made these 'out of themainsomewhat ofworking thestigma their against struggled studies, stream.' a notablechange. thisimagehas undergone In themorerecent past,however, has rainforest of the tropical tribes among the surviving research Ethnological of, unthought of inquiry thatwereformerly begunto reacha depthand breadth new lightupon to shedan entirely are beginning and these newlygainedinsights peoplesof theAmazon Basin,the theintellectual of theaboriginal achievements a vastareacoverTropics, oftheAmerican regions OrinocoPlainsand manyother are It seemsthattheold stereotypes squarekilometres. ing morethansix million not witha new image:theIndian, we arepresented atlast;andinstead disappearing
* Huxley Memorial Lecture, 1975. Man (N.S.) xx, 307-3I8.

This content downloaded from 132.206.27.25 on Fri, 16 Aug 2013 18:02:38 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

308

G. REICHEL-DOLMATOFF

witha soundsenseof reality, thinker and an individual onlyas a highly pragmatic cosmicmodels, a builder ofintricate philosopher, butalso,theIndianas an abstract ofsweeping Alsoatthesameperiod, inviewofcurrent moraldesigns. anda planner innatural their andtechnologists who haveturned interest resources, many scientists with havebecomeconcerned to thetropical rainforest areasoftheworld, attention ofecological societies havehad to whichtraditional themany adaptation problems In thecaseoftheAmazonBasinit takes a healthy and solvein these environments. and with the energetic societyto cope with the rigorousclimaticconditions would developnot resources, a society that of easilydepleted natural management within effective for survival-framed adaptive behavioural rules onlya setofhighly belief still,a society with a coherent institutional bodies-but, more important valueswhichwouldmakeendurofstrongly motivating system, witha foundation world. of man'sexistence in an unpredictable able theproblems ofadaptive and examine someaspects In this to describe lecture itis mypurpose ofmycontacts withseveral itin thecourse behaviour as I havebeenableto observe Indiangroupsin theColombianlowlands.I shouldadd herethatby 'adaptive' I of theindividual or the of survival meananything theprobability thatincreases of the NorthTukano Indians I refer to the following shall mainly group.In the concern will westAmazon,especially theDesana (Eastern Tukano),and mychief of these thecosmological concepts be to trace someconnexions thatexistbetween In doingso andtherealities environment. ofadaptation to a givenphysical Indians, structures, together I shalltry cosmologies and myth that aboriginal to demonstrate a set of in all respects with the ritualbehaviourderivedfromthem,represent rules and economic formulate a system of social and that these ecological principles to maintain a viable endeavour adaptive valuein thecontinuous that havea highly ofsociety. and thedemands theresources oftheenvironment equilibrium between II The TukanoIndians of thenorthwest portion occupya largeareain thecentral of the Rio Negro. AlAmazon,mainlyon the Vaupes River, a majoraffluent of terrain forested, a transitional is flatand densely thoughmostof the country is somelieson thewestern theforest whiletowards thenorth fringe, hilly uplands this timesbrokenby stretches of grassy, Although savannacountry. tree-strewn rainforest region,many as a rather homogeneous been described area has often environmental upon therange bearing differences existwhichhave considerable and reptiles, and success of humanadaptive Game animals, amphibians responses. ediblefruits, and suitable landsare not evenlydishorticultural nutsand insects, and considerable tributed can be said to existwithinand resource fluctuation amongsubregions. ofcircumstances. The Tukanoareboundto their habitat by a number rainforest In thefirst by themat thelandinhabited to myth and tradition, place,according andwas times, in ancient, heroic peopledbytheir forefathers present was originally These trust. handedon to their in a perpetual descendants as a solemninvestiture tribal and genealogical ancestors in myths and deedsareremembered whosenames therocksand the and thehills, designations to therivers recitals had givenproper to be their features. This,then,continues rapidsand to all othernotablenatural

This content downloaded from 132.206.27.25 on Fri, 16 Aug 2013 18:02:38 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

G. REICHEL-DOLMATOFF

309

country, thehomeland oftheancients. It is ofinterest to observe herethat, although theTukanohabitat can,to a largedegree, be described as a truly 'natural environment',theythemselves perceive it as a man-made environment, transformed and structured in thepastnot so muchby anyexploitative activities of their ancestors, but by havingbeen imbuedby themwithsymbolic meaning. There is, then,a time-perspective to their understanding of theenvironment. In thesecondplace,Tukano territory is surrounded by landsoccupiedby other people,be they tribal Indians or be theyColombianor Brazilian settlers, and both theseneighbouring groupsare quite unwilling to acceptimmigrants, muchless invaders. The Tukano,then, mustof necessity existwithin thelimitations of their givenenvironment and mustmakethebestof it. Theyhave to relyutterly upon their localresources and upontheir own traditional skills forexploiting them. The traditional settlement pattern consists of widelyscattered largeand wellbuiltcommunalhouses,occupiedby extended families whose members derive much of theirbasic food supplyfromcultivating manioc gardens.However, seasonal hunting, fishing and gathering play an important partin their economic and sociallife.Tukanosociety is divided intomorethantwenty namedexogamic groups;descent is patrilineal andresidence is patrilocal, withcross-cousin marriage saidto be preferred. Marriage between these different units implies a rigidly structured relationship whichis expressed in manyforms of reciprocity and exchange. Most of theseactivities, both social and economic,are closelyconnected with ceremonies directed by theshaman who also officiates ofthelifecycle at therituals and is activeas a healerof illness. Warfare is not institutionalised. Hereis a brief summary ofhow theTukanoimagine theorigin and structure of theuniverse and theelementary forces thatanimate it. The creator was theSunFather, an anthropomorphic god who designed a three-layered cosmosconsisting ofa flat a celestial earth, vault, and a placeofbliss He then situated under theearth. peopledthelandandcreated animals andplants, a setofrules giving to eachspecies to whichtheywere to live and multiply. according However,the Sun-Father created onlya limited number ofanimals andplants, bothcategories placing under the constant care of specific spirit-beings who were to guardand protect them against eventual abuses. Whatis more, he assigned to hiscreation onlya restricted, roughly circular, stretch ofland,limited on all sidesby permanent landmarks. In otherwords,the creation of the Tukano universe was not conceivedas an allor expanding embracing system, butwas a limited, well-defined proposition with finite and restricted resources. Nor was it accomplished as a singleact limited in time:it stillcontinues uninterruptedly because,eversinceitsinitiation, the SunFather a fertilising exercises actionuponit.It is theenergy ofthesun,imagined by theTukanoin terms of seminal light and heat,that to growand fruit causesplants to ripen,thatmakesmankind and animalsreproduce, to be and thatis thought creative not onlyin a germinal, of spiritual biologicalsense, but also in thesense illumination and theattainment of esoteric wisdom.The essenceof thisforceis imagined as a masculine powerthat fertilises a feminine that is this world. element In Tukanothought, thebiosphere hasbothmaleand female butseenin its aspects, totality, it has primarily a feminine over which the sun exercises character his power. The seminal energy ofthesunis thought in whichthe to constitute a hugecircuit

This content downloaded from 132.206.27.25 on Fri, 16 Aug 2013 18:02:38 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

310

G. REICHELDOLMATOFF

of is imagined as havinga limited This circuit cosmosparticipates. quantity entire betweenman and animal,between energythatflowscontinuously procreative what isrestricted, manmayremove ofenergy Sincethequantity andnature. society his quantumof 'borconditions and mustconvert he needsonly undercertain For into the circuit. into an essencethancan be reincorporated rowed' energy theenergy of the whenan animalis killedor whena crop is harvested example, as soon as thegameor arethought to be diminished; and flora however, localfauna now on thelevelof theenergy is conserved, intonourishment, fruit areconverted life of thefoodhave now acquireda reproductive becausetheconsumers society, to an animal or thatpreviously force plant. belonged III a remarkable to ideasis that this bears resemblance The striking pointaboutthese In terms of ecologicaltheory, theTukano thusconceive modern analysis. systems to is directly related in whichtheamountof energy output theworldas a system to the the receives. Tukano, system of the According amount the input system in the in two ways: sexualenergy whichhas been repressed theseinputs handles of in total which the biotic comto the returns energy capital directly individual, from conmere health and of the resulting well-being, system participates; ponents comalso the abiotic an which foodconsumption, energises trolled represent input of thestars or meteorological forexample, themovements of thesystem, ponents in a this The individual should never cause disturbance general equiphenomena. use as as he should never without it soon that possible. restoring energy librium, is, is largelyderivedfromthe model of sexualphysiology. The The entire system to whicha includesa large numberof things Tukano conceptof solar energy is attributed or other becauseof theircolour,shape,texture seminalsymbolism of otherthings whilea number are associated witha female concharacteristics; and gestation. The associations of imagesand symbols are incept of fecundity and eventually levelsof abstraction dissociate terpreted by theTukano on various andfarther from farther natural andphysiological facts at a higher until, themselves a systems ofbalanced, finite cometo constitute energy theory level,they cognitive flow. inthe rebalancing modelofa system whichconstantly requires Thiscosmological of energy a religious ofinputs constitutes form retrieved proeffort, by individual whichis intimately withthesocialand economicorganisation connected position of thegroup.In thisway,thegeneral flowbecomesa religious balanceof energy in whichnative organisational role. playa dominant ecological concepts objective a becomes therefore To understand thestructure oftheecosystem and functioning of vitaltaskto theTukano.It follows knowledge ethnobiological that theIndian's thenatural through he assimilates is notcasualand is not something environment it is a structured, senseexperience; and repeated increasing familiarity gradually of enquiry and which whichis basedupona long tradition knowledge disciplined and culequipment forbiological is acquired as partofhisintellectual ofnecessity turalsurvival. be that might innewknowledge little interest there is usually AmongtheIndians is little concern for and there usedforexploiting moreeffectively theenvironment

This content downloaded from 132.206.27.25 on Fri, 16 Aug 2013 18:02:38 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

G. REICHEL-DOLMATOFF

3II

thanare morefoodor raw-materials short-term gainsor forobtaining maximising more of interest in accumulating But there is always a great deal needed. actually reality and,above all,aboutwhatthephysical aboutbiological knowledge factual for the Indiansbelieve,is essential fromman. This knowledge, world requires into conformity with natureif he survivalbecause man must bringhimself availto nature's and mustfithisdemands unity, wantsto existas partof nature's abilities. constitutes becauseitoften to theIndians interest is ofgreatest behaviour Animal adaptation. On theone hand,the ofsuccessful in terms a modelforwhatispossible andmicrodisofsuch aspects asseasonal variation knowledge havea detailed Indians They have a good underoftheanimal oftheir species habitat. andplant tributions of bird of ecologicalcommunities, of the behaviourof social insects, standing of forms offish runs, and other schools, thepatterns offish theorganisation flocks, and commensalism Suchphenomena as parasitism, symbiosis, behaviour. collective by them species havebeenwell observed co-occurring between relationships other and On theother hand,myths modelsofadaptation. outas possible andarepointed into to theanimalworld,of people turning of visits talesabound withaccounts menhow teaching or ofanimals habits, in order to learnmoreabouttheir animals dedetailed contains wisdomoften resources. Shamanistic to makeuse of certain claim to have acand manyshamans and exchanges, of suchcontacts scriptions some to them whichrevealed animals from knowledge specific partoftheir quired in solving procedure or a practical foodresource, a cureforan illness, unexpected and esoteric be considered wisdommaythen Some ofthis someeveryday problem. specialised this butoften enough ofa shaman, property remaining theprivate secret, of human patterns becomespartof prescribed knowledgeof animalbehaviour mythology value.Moreover, ofitsobviousadaptive andinteraction because action or whichwere tellsof animalspecieswhichhave become extinct emphatically rulesof adaptivesignifiprescribed certain fornotobeying or degraded punished of overinduland all forms aggressiveness improvidence, cance. Thus, gluttony, not only to the to serveas examples forces, by the superior genceare punished for are metaphors then, Animals, animalcommunity, but also to humansociety. in the an order try to discover theIndians animalbehaviour By analysing survival. can thenbe adjusted. activities to whichhuman world,a world-order physical partofa comhe forms that is conscious person In Tukanoculture, theindividual unibut the entire whichincludenot only society of interactions plex network has a person of all things, interrelatedness ofan essential verse. context Withinthis areextrahisor hersocialrolesandthat beyond that go far to fulfil manyfunctions guidea then, Theserulesor norms, norms. of a setof adaptive societal extensions kinor ally-but people-past or present, notonlywithother relationships person's comof factwithall bioticand non-biotic also withanimals, as a matter plants, above all, hasto followrefer, theindividual The rules oftheenvironment. ponents of ecologicalbalanceas the aimed at the conservation to cooperative behaviour man and hisenvironbetween Thus therelationship quality. ultimately desirable it also conlevel,but clearly not only on a cognitive mentis beingformulated andplants are animals in whichindividual relationship personal stitutes an affective and caution. treated withrespect balance a stable to maintain in order that, The Tukanoarequiteawareofthefact

This content downloaded from 132.206.27.25 on Fri, 16 Aug 2013 18:02:38 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

312

G. REICHEL-DOLMATOFF

and output, ofinput a number ofregulatory mechanisms haveto be instituted and, whatis more, haveto be fully respected byall members ofthesociety. Thesesocial of necessity controls possessmarkedadaptive implications and mustbe enforced primarily in those aspects ofexistence which, to a largedegree, determine survival. I shallmention here:population growth, theexploitation of thephysical environment, and aggression in interpersonal relations. It is quiteclearto theTukanothat, in order to ensure individual and collective survival and well-being, adaptive rules have to be established to adjustthe birth-rate, the harvest-rate, and to counterbalanceall socially disruptive behaviour.

IV
I shallfirst turnto the problemof population growthand regulations. Two mechanisms are used by theIndiansto control thebirth-rate: oral contraceptives and sexualcontinence. Tukano womenuse herbalconcoctions which, in varying concentrations, causetemporary sterility, and by thismeanstheymanageto space their overseveral in sucha way that offspring years whena womanhashersecond childthefirst is already of sufficiently independent notto be a bother. The number is keptlow and coupleswithmanychildren children arecriticised quiteopenlyas socially irresponsible. It maybe addedhere thattheold and infirm, as soon as they ceaseto collaborate in thefood questof their household group,are eliminated by in theforest beingabandoned or on an island in theriver. The secondmechanism is abstention. Sexualabstinence and sexualrepression are practised on manyoccasions and are amongthe mostimportant prerequisites to manyritual activities. It is important to pointout herethat, in Tukano thought, food and sex are closelyrelated This idea of reand are symbolically equivalent. betweencaloricand sexualappetite is expressed in manyways; on a lationship levelsexualintercourse metaphorical andeating areequated, andin ritual exchange certain cometo represent foodstuffs ofwomen.Sincestrict theexchange exogamic rulesconstitute themainorganising in Tukano society, theconsumption principle or avoidance of certain foodsaregearedto theconcept ofexogamyin sucha way use of thatdietary restrictions come to standforsexualrestrictions. The selective foodsmaythusbe saidto be subject certain whichdeterto thelaws of exophagy, mine the permissibility of certain There are foodsunderdiverse circumstances. 'male' and 'female'foodsand foodpreparations, not onlyto and these rulesrefer animal-derived foods. butalso to vegetable foods, Theseaspects arebest ofthehunter. illustrated bytheideasthat guidetheactivities All game animalsare subject to theMasterof Animals, a dwarf-like spirit-being withmarked his This supernatural phallicattributes. gamekeeper jealouslyguards of deer, flock and all other animal consisting tapir, peccary, agouti, paca,monkeys of Animals is thatare a commonfoodresource of theIndians. The Master species hillsor their and procreator and theyall live insidesteeprocky directly protector in deep pools in the river, both dwelling-places beingimaginedas largestoreMaster's In orderto obtainthesupernatural housesteeming withgame and fish. a rigorous hunter mustundergo to killa gameanimal, theprospective permission and purification of sexualcontinence, foodrestrictions, preparation whichconsists For some daysbefore rites and emetics. the body by bathing ensuring cleansing

This content downloaded from 132.206.27.25 on Fri, 16 Aug 2013 18:02:38 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

G. REICHEL-DOLMATOFF

313

excursion, themanshould refrain from all sexualrelations and, goingon a hunting heshould nothavehadanydreams whatis more, withan erotic content. Moreover, is menstruating. thatnoneof thewomenwho live in hishousehold it is necessary overhunting is this: According to cosmological mechanism thatrestricts Another by the as defined certain constellations, with are associated animals all game myths risen over has its constellation after only be hunted can a species Tukano.However, when they realise anditis saidthat cryandweep withfear theanimals thehorizon, is itself thehunt herealso that It maybe mentioned that their timeis approaching. the prey in which a courtship as it is imagined quest in that morethana merefood to thehunter. to submit hasto be seduced Whenevergame is scarce,the shamanmustvisitthe Masterof Animalsin a He of some of hischarges. himtherelease and tryto obtainfrom trance narcotic season or fora good hunting forherds butrather willnotaskfor animals individual who,at abodethesoulsofpersons to sendto theMaster's he promises andin return of those theenergy to replenish to thisgreatstore-house mustreturn death, their of Animals The Master givesto thehunters. gamekeeper thesupernatural animals of usufruct as administrators are thusconceived and hisnumerous personifications use areinstituted to their rights restrictive arelimited, sincegameresources rights; to becomethemediator. to theshaman and itfalls spirit-beings, by these of all it is obviousthatthecombination Fromtheexamples I have mentioned rules whichnotably adaptive a bodyofhighly initself these represents prerequisites or cannotgo hunting A person or fisherman. of anybunter theactivities restrict a moreor undergone having anytimehe needsfood,butonlyafter fishing simply of whichis to avoid overthepurpose periodofpreparation, lessanxiety-charged of to neglect alwaysattributed arealmost in hunting or misfortune Illness hunting. hasto observe. a hunter rules anyof thenumerous witheconomicactivities, in connexion are not onlyobserved Food restrictions everyday and in manyother occasions on mostritual practice but are a standard a child shouldeat For example,a man whose wifeis expecting circumstances. thegood health affect meatbecausethismight normonkey tapir, peccary neither gear has become or fishing of his yet unbornoffspring. A man whose hunting a liquiddietfor from by a woman,mustobserve touched beingcasually polluted of theriver in one's stretch severaldays.When fishrunto spawn,thosepresent ofsome for food,andtheflesh eggsevercollected norarebirds' should notbe eaten, areverbalinterdictions season.All these their breeding is avoidedduring reptiles strict health. Especially to theconsumer's ised by theIndians of dangers in terms of in theacquisition whileengaged normally eating keeppeoplefrom prohibitions lifecycleinvolve all rituals of the individual esoteric knowledgeand, similarly, and childbirth duringpregnancy, In summary, dietary restrictions. temporary herbs;durmedicinal periods, or whilegathering during mourning menstruation; orlove narcotics ofpoisons, uponthepreparation ingthecouvadeorwhileengaged rule,refrain food intakeand, as a general their control people carefully potions, from eating themeatof gameanimals. andof ofhoney andnuts, ofwildfruits Similar restrict thegathering prohibitions manuof raw-materials used in technological edibleinsects. Even the extraction fora roof,of of thatch The gathering restrictions. by ritual factures is controlled end fora number of specific or of scarce woods or fibres making, clayforpottery

This content downloaded from 132.206.27.25 on Fri, 16 Aug 2013 18:02:38 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

314

G. REICHEL-DOLMATOFF

aresubject products, to permits whichhaveto be obtained from thespirit-owners of therespective resources. Thiscomplexofdietary andsexualrestrictions is closely related to thecontrol of aggressive attitudes. The principal mechanism which checkssociallydisruptive is theorganisation behaviour intoexogamicgroupswhichare linkedby alliances and standin a relationship of reciprocal exchange. Besidesexchanging women, or manufacthese units will giveand receive raw-materials complementary foods, turedgoods,and on theseperiodicoccasions whichconstitute formalised highly overand overagain rituals, thedances, songsand ceremonial dialogues emphasise thepairedlinkages thatuniteTukano society. of what constitutes It appearsfromthe foregoing thatthe Tukano definition foodresources refers to a certain carrying capacity, mainly balanceofprotein-rich not in suchas game,fish and wild fruits. is interpreted Environmental degradation of soil exhaustion, but in terms of the eventual of game and of terms depletion of protein resources reincreased walkingtime.Because of the relative scarcity usehaveto be established in order relocato their to avoidfrequent strictive rights forhorticultural conditions areperhaps tionofsettlements. activities not Propitious butlandforproductive plentiful, garden plotsis available. However,thenutrient all vegetable ofpractically foodsoftherainforest is verylow andcarrying content ofprotein and populais therefore determined capacity by theexistence resources, arefunctions tionsizeand density thereof. I havementioned-population The three ofthe aspects growth, theexploitation environment and thecontrol ofaggression-can be reduced to one single physical ofa balanced that knowthat problem, is,themaintenance ecosystem. The Indians their of these dailyexistence depends upon theproper functioning adaptive interThe question how cana peoplebe madeto followthese actions. arises, prescriptions whichimposesuchsevere restrictions socialbehaviour and regulations upon their and their needs? biological V mechanisms in the The nativegroups I am concerned withhere, which, enforce related of disease. to theaboriginal To beginwith,the therulesareclosely theory specific bodilyor mentalconditions to theTukano,constitute which,according and whichmanifest a largenumber illness themselves of signs and sympthrough to be causedby an agentexternal to thebody.The postoms,arealwaysthought fallintothree siblepathogenic ofgameanimals; agencies categories (i) therevenge of other ofsupernatural such (2) theill-will people,and (3) themalevolence beings or other as theMasterof Animals spirit-beings. of people and animalsis not an arbitrary This malevolence forcethatblindly strikes itsunsuspecting victim.On thecontrary, is alwaysinterpreted as a illness of a person's or neglect breach of cultural norms. quitenatural consequence Apart from itsbeingsocially and emotionally illness disturbing, is,in theTukanoview, but a reaction to theecologically of thepatient, nothing inadequate behaviour to his maladaptive It is thepatient who causesthe disease, performance. by making himself theshaman vulnerable to it. The diagnosis establishes two has,therefore, to thesymptoms different One refers to thepatient's he hasdeaspects: complaints, theperson refers to thequestion becamea victim of veloped;theother aspect why

This content downloaded from 132.206.27.25 on Fri, 16 Aug 2013 18:02:38 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

G. REICHEL-DOLMATOFF

315

aspectof theshaman's another important And herewe can recognise thedisease. adaptation. to theproblem ofecological that is closely related an aspect function, upof a person's is takento be theconsequence illness practice In shamanistic is a commoncause balance.Overhunting aspectof theecological a certain setting has scarce natural resource in whichsomerelatively activities and so areharvesting bewithinthe natural environment, been wasted.The delicatebalanceexisting in a series ofsystems constitutes itself, society andwithin and society, nature tween thewhole.For example, is boundto affect slight, however whichanydisturbance, womenwho shouldbe avoidedis thesamekindof affront withcertain meddling too manyanimals ofa shouldnotbe eaten;whilekilling that fish certain as eating of the consequence speciesmustalwaysbe avoided. These are offences certain accompanied isoften which process, islikely In thediagnostic which to be an illness. notso much in thepatient's illness is interested theshaman practices, by divinatory flow. ofa disorder in theenergy as a symptom butrather ofbiology, as a function and thesupernatural betweensociety is about therelationship His mainconcern and in harvesting on whom dependsuccess and wild fruits, of game,fish Masters of the agents.To the shamanit is therefore who commandmany pathogenic theexactquality to identify thecausesof theillness, correctly to diagnose essence or any otheroveroverhunting, (be it adultery, relationship of the inadequate withthe thebalanceby communicating or waste),and thento redress indulgence To menwiththegameanimals. contacts reconciliatory and by establishing spirits A manwho haskilledtoo is established: tion just one exampleofhow a diagnosis will appearin the shaman'sdreamor trance species, manyanimalsof a certain by a certain in theshapeof thatanimaland theimagewill be accompanied states in high thatdifferences It is quiteremarkable oflight. degree a certain luminosity, in the flowof solar to be veryimportant are recognised or low lightintensity spells in their willmention shamans bytheTukano,andthat as understood energy, thebiosphere. of 'yellowlight'thatenergise up to sevenshades and incantations ofillas a healer theshaman that I wantto emphasise aspect In summarising this of level on the operates but level, on theindividual nessdoesnotso muchinterfere be To person. by the thathave been disturbed structures thosesupra-individual It partof theecosystem. to thedisturbed he has to applyhis treatment effective, his patients; individual have not be said thenthata Tukano shamandoes might is of the patient The diseasedorganism taskis to cure a social malfunctioning. and empirically both eventually, and will be treated in importance secondary of therulesthatwill avoid is there-establishment counts butwhatreally ritually, population and unchecked plantresources, of certain the depletion overhunting, and control in the force powerful The shamanbecomesthusa truly increase. of resources. management and gathering fishing, withhunting, quitedirectly The shamantheninterferes the control shaman will personally a Forexample, activities. mostother harvesting he stretch of river; a certain on to be used offish-poison andconcentration quantity reis a of herd when peccary of animals to be killed thenumber will determine ofwild forthegathering strategy harvesting andhe willdecideon a suitable ported, a water after back into the be thrown to fish have which fruits. He will determine killing the prohibit completely might even he haulhasbeenmade,andoccasionally suchtechnoHe willalsocontrol areaoftheforest. in a restricted ofcertain animals

This content downloaded from 132.206.27.25 on Fri, 16 Aug 2013 18:02:38 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

3I6

G. REICHEL-DOLMATOFF

logical activities as theconstruction ofa communal house, themanufacture ofa Allthese ortheopening ofa trail. canoe, activities obviously affect the natural environment since trees haveto be felled andmany plants haveto be destroyed or usedin theprocess, andtheshaman's roleas a protector of gameandplant-life animals andplants Allthis, explains why figure soprominently ashis spirit-helpers. I should liketopoint outhere, isnotspeculation; theIndians arequite explicit in these matters andexplain that ofnature the spirit-owners must notbe angered and that task itis theshaman's toreconcile them. Thevery large denotative vocabulary ofa shaman expresses hisgreat concern In order to be ableto with thecomplete oftheecosystem. establishing inventory name andcategorise allitsconhehastoknow, this administer great store-house, himwiththecriteria forecological Thisknowledge tents. eventually provides andthis, ofcourse, isproblem-solving Thefact that planning byanticipation. many ashunting, such ofa newfield orthe daily activities fishing, gathering, the clearing ofa disease aresubject in order to divinatory to locate curing practices themost ortime, ortofind most the effective incoping with propitious spot procedure this theshaman to protect or that wild-life predicament, gives ample opportunity by a certain ofhunting hethinks that excursions whenever random scheduling species indirections ortochannel other hebelieves isendangered, any exploitative activity shamans moveI know ofseveral cases where initiated limited tobebest. migratory inorder to abandon their homes toavoidanapproaching ments byasking people ofevilspirits, indivinatory both calamities revealed orthe epidemic presence being of seems to havebeentheadvanced The true trance. reason, however, depletion ofrelated Inviewoftheobservation ofa number itseems protein resources. cases, andthat, in notunlikely that shamanistic divinatory practices operate with models this arebeing introduced manner, many adaptive changes byshamans. askhere:how far ofhisroleas an One might is a shaman actually conscious broker? Doeshealways andwith actquite anadequate ecological rationally underofecological standing principles? ofcourse, Someshamans, There exist, differences. notably theyounger andless in quite to verbalise their terms tend experienced ones, conceptions simplistic by andoverharvesting arebound that toannoy both the and saying overhunting spirits andthat illness willbe the willreadily thegame animals, punishment. They point in prey andwillattribute abundance thebiotic outchanges of impoverishment will areas tothe action ofvengeful Others however certain restricted not make spirits. butwillblame andignorance forthe useofthese mystical interpretations greed of protein some(ifnotall) diseases resources. depletion Theywillattribute to andwillstate resources arescarce nutritional deficiencies quite plainly that protein andhaveto be protected. To be sure, thefact that most economic activities areaccompanied by rituals for doesnotmean that asks thesupernatural forces theshaman simply abundance, canproduce, forplenty, fora maximum amount ofwhattheenvironment but costs and rather that occasions arebeing provided for stock-taking, for weighing andfortheeventual At these moments the re-distribution ofresources. benefits, In point shaman's andoutputs. of book-keeping shows thegeneral system inputs theperiodic most suchas curing fact, shamanistic activities rituals, rain-making, be reaffirmation ofalliances or foodexchange between exogamic groups might

This content downloaded from 132.206.27.25 on Fri, 16 Aug 2013 18:02:38 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

G. REICHEL-DOLMATOFF

317

as rituals viewed concerned withresource management and ecological balance. This fact hassometimes been obscured bya tendency todescribe native shamans in terms ofmere witchdoctors orreligious fanatics. VI TheTukano andmany other Colombian tribes believe that the entire universe is steadily deteriorating. Thusit is thought that formerly peoplewerehealthier, stronger andmore intelligent than they areatpresent; that animals andfruits were larger andthat they weremore abundant than now.The Indians willpoint out stretches offorest, rivers or lagoons saying that in former times animal life was plentiful there. It is true that, atpresent, this feeling ofimpending doomispartly inmany justified; parts the world ofthe rain forest Indians isonthe wane. Butthe Indian's sense of entropy, of thetendency toward disorder andchaos, doesnot seem to be a consequence ofhispresent plight, butrather represents an existential anxiety that forms part ofnative cosmology andphilosophy, andthat isbased upon the close anddaily observation ofthe biological cycles ofgrowth anddecline. The important point is that this ideaofincreasing disorder is always followed bythe institutionalised resolution to recreate theworld andto re-establish and itsorder purpose asstated incosmological tradition. This continuous cycle ofritual creation, destruction andis andre-creation canbe found in many societies tropical forest indeed animportant mechanism ofcultural andbiological survival. In thecourse ofthese ceremonial occasions, when theuniverse andallitscomarebeing reaffirmaponents renewed, onegoalbecomes ofcentral the importance: oflinks tion ofconwith andfuture past generations, together with the expression cern aboutthefuture well-being of society. The emphasis of theritual is upon unifying thesocial group, uponcontinuity, upontheclosebonds ofidentity that unite society with thepast andmake itthefoundation ofthefuture. Itseems that of union this sense provides deeply motivating values andstrong incentives fora ecological responsibility. Thelengthy genealogical andthe ritual recitals dialogues havea powerful cohesive function, andinmany ofthese rituals animal andplantarethought spirits toparticipate, interrelatedness expressing bytheir presence their andinterdependency. ofthe It must be pointed outhere that theritual re-creation universe isgenerally ofplant accompanied bythe collective useofnarcotics origin. During these drug-induced trance states, orother forms of dissociate phenomena, the infact, with seethemselves participants establish contact the mythical past, they return here to thetime ofdivine init.It is clear Creation andthus take part that, ofthe visions shaman canadaptively again, the officiating orient the interpretations oftheir people project uponthevivid hallucinations. background orall ofthese which canbe saidto be essentially concerned During most rituals with ofmyths andgenealogies isofgreat the recital ecological balance, importance. These andinfancy man's nature andtrace man's from myths explain birth destiny andnearanddeath; thesinofincest to decline from to chaos through maturity andhence to a neworder andtheestablishment destruction, oflaw.These myths andtales, I should liketo emphasise arenotmere here, 'literature'; they represent a truly a cognitive remarkable effort at intellectual at providing interpretation, matrix area guide for survival rules ofconduct, for life. They because establish they

This content downloaded from 132.206.27.25 on Fri, 16 Aug 2013 18:02:38 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

3I8

G. REICHEL-DOLMATOFF

notonlyforritual occasions butforeveryday life;a fact which sometimes goes unnoticed as longas onehasnotdiscovered themetaphorical codein which the aretransmitted. myths Thecosmological myths which express the Tukano world-view do notdescribe in terms Man'sPlacein Nature ofdominion, ofmastery overa subordinate ennordo they inanywayexpress thenotion ofwhat some ofus might vironment, intheir isnota physical of'harmony calla sense with nature.' Nature, view, entity man from hecannot apart and, therefore, confront itoroppose itorharmonise with man canunbalance itbyhis itasa separate entity. Occasionally personal malfunctionhenever from ofa ingasa component, but stands it.Manistaken tobea part apart which-bethey or cultural-transcend setofsupra-individual systems biological lives andwithin which survival andthemaintenance ofa certain ourindividual onlyifall other lifeforms too areallowed to evolve quality oflifearepossible incosmological as stated andtraditions. totheir according specific needs, myths I should liketonote Until In closing, thefollowing. quite recently ethnologists haveattempted to explain cultural evolution and change in and archaeologists of linear cause-and-effect models and this is still usedby most terms approach wasthefirst in these fields. Bateson to sense the specialists Gregory ethnographer hisethnographical a systems model to account for needfor theory data, although waswritten hisnowclassic on New Guinea theformal monograph longbefore ofsystems hadbeendeveloped. aspects theory on cause-and-effect Archaeologists havebeenparticularly to dependence prone andmodels onthe constructed oflinear andthese explanations principles causality, in theintellectual havebeenemphasised movement called'New Archaetrends hasnoted that twovery that different kinds of ology'.Itisonly recently Flannery areusedbythe'New Archaeology.' models One ofthese explanatory schools is inits adherence tolinear hasapplied explicit the term 'law-andcausality. Flannery order' Theother tothis school. less trend hasbeen anapplicaarchaeology popular for ofsystems tion to account cultural itsdynamics to theory change, attributing ina part slowdeviations which ofthe andthen very originate system develop into isfar modifications. It seems this more major that approach likely toproduce sigis 'law-and-order' nificant models than archaeology. in thelastdecade It is striking then that andarchaeologists ethnographers are as theonlykindof explanatory model which coming to accept canbe usedto handle ecological the kindof overall modelwhichwas relationships systems a very adopted by 'primitive' Indians longtime ago.
NOTES

I am deeply conscious of thegreat honour of having beenaskedto givethe1975 Huxley Memorial Lecture. I ammost totheBritish Councilandto theRoyal Anthropological grateful Institute, especially theEsperanza Fund,fortheir generous assistance. I alsowishto express my sincere personal gratitude to DonaldLathrap, Martin Moynihan, Olga Linares de Moynihan andJ.Wilbert, to reada draft forhaving beenkindenough of this lecture; their suggestions haveprovedto be very stimulating andhelpful.

This content downloaded from 132.206.27.25 on Fri, 16 Aug 2013 18:02:38 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions