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Woman the Hunter: The


By: Agnes Estioko-Grifiin and P. Bion Griffin

Presented by: Jasmin Velez

Article Source:
Estioko-Griffin, Agnes, and P. Bion Griffin
1981 Woman the Hunter: The Agta. In Woman the Gatherer. Frances Dahlberg, eds. Pp.
Second Source:
Goodman, Madeleine J., with P. Bion Griffin, Agnes A. Estioko-Griffin and John S. Grove
1985 The Compatibility of Hunting and Mothering among the Agta Hunter-Gatherers of
the Philippines. Sex Roles 12(11/12):1119-1209.
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The Agta
The Agta are known as Negrito people of
the Phillipines.
They reside in parts of eastern Luzon
along the coast of the Sierra Madre
mountains. Some, but not many, also
reside on the western side of the Sierra
Mountains near Cagayan. There are a few
notable Agta who reside further south in
Mindanao, but most remain north near the
coastal line.
There is not just one group of Agta, but
many, and some may disagree on what
the appropriate roles are for men and
All Agta were once hunter-gatherers until
around A.D. 1900 when there was a
transition into part-time horticulturalist.



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Agta Sustenance
In certain areas hunting remains to be the dominating
form by which Agta receive their food. Forest game
include animals such as wild pigs, deer and monkey.
In all Agta groups there has been a shift from collecting
forest plants for nourishment to exchanging meat for
other things such as rice, corn and other root crops.
In some Agta groups there is no hunting but there is the
shift to farming and planting small plots of their own
foods, however, this is not commonly done within all
members of the Agta culture.
Fishing is common throughout all Agta groups, and is
especially done during the rainy seasons.

Social Organizations
The Agta live in groups known as a pisan. No less than two families, and no
more than five families, which include nuclear families and extended
family residential groups, are a common group unit.
Most groups are tied by a common parent or sibling ties. Non-kin members
may come and join the groups for up to several weeks, as well as any
family can leave one kin and settle in with another.
No formal authority exists which is typical of hunting-gathering societies.
The nuclear family makes all the decisions concerning work that needs to
be done or other important concerns.
Older members such a parents or grandparents can be looked to for advice
but nothing they say will be binding or detrimental if one chooses to not
listen to their council.
Group consensus is desired and if anyone disagrees they are encouraged
free to leave.

Settlement Patterns
Determined by the seasonal cycle of rain, sunny
weather as well as how much flora and fauna can be
found at the time.
During the rainy season, traveling is much harder
and makes it difficult to trade, but is a good time for
hunting for game.
During the wet season, fishing is also commonly
done as a main source of food.
The dry season allows for travel, especially far
distances, which makes it easier for trading as they
can travel freely.

Group Fishing
Women contribute to a large
amount of the daily catch if
they work individually, however
in group fishing there are clear
roles assigned to each person
All who are able-bodied will
swim and go spear fishing,
while the older adults, or those
not as able will run nets across
the area.
Elderly become collectors of
foods such as shellfish, shrimps
or amphibians, basically any
food that does not require
much physical hardship.

Trade Networks and Farming

Forest foods are difficult to collect, necessitate residence moves over long
distances and do not taste as good as cultivated foods. (Estioko-Griffin A.,
and P. Bion Griffin:125)
After population increase during World War II trade increased and resulted
on a higher dependency for goods and foods from neighboring farmers.
Agta began trading meat for carbohydrates but has now shifted to working
for cash in some cases.
With the new trade network the need for hunting decreases since they can
get many of the foods from cultivation. This leads to less dependency upon
the forests, however farmers have taken over previously own Agta land
which leads to problems such as the Agta owing farm-landers manual labor
for trades as well as a new economic dependency not seen in the past.
They are becoming what is called landless laborers (Estioko-Griffin A.,
and P. Bion Griffin: 125).
Many Agta are now attempting to become farmers, but so far the success
rate is not too high.

Agta Women & Hunting

Women participate in all the subsistence activities that men do. Women trade with
farmers, fish in the rivers, collect forest plant foods, and may even hunt game animals.
Tasks are not identical, however; a modest sexual division of labor does exist.
These tasks mentioned are varied within Agta groups and can be affected by modern
Filipino culture, and in some cases to their differences in history by regions.
In some groups such as those in Isabella, women do not hunt with bows or arrows,
machetes or traps, but simply assist men in hunting.
In Palanan women who hunt are considered to be ebuked or old fashioned and will
hunt only in extreme circumstances. While in some groups such as those in Cagayan
women are active and prolific hunters.
The use of weapons varies from group to group but there was a strong affiliation for
the use of dogs accompanying women during their hunts. The use of bows and arrows
was also used but machetes and dogs as a combination were preferred.
In many observed groups many women, like men, enjoyed hunting more than others
and this was not looked at to be uncommon.
Men are commonly the ones who created the projectile spear points and did most of
the blacksmithing, one example of the modest division of labor.

The Compatibility of Hunting

and Mothering
Men may be more innately predisposed to hunting,
while women may be behaviorally predisposed to
gathering. (Goodman et al. 1985: 1200).

Hunting and Mothering

The Compatibility of Hunting and Mothering

among the Agta Hunter-Gatherers of the
By: Madeleine J Goodman.,P. Bion Griffin, Agnes A. EstiokoGriffin and John S. Grove

Hunting and Mothering


Key Terms and Definitions

1. Ebuked: A name given by certain Agta groups for what
they claim are other uncivilized members of their culture who
live far in the mountains and who are not as advanced in
trading or farming strategies as other Agta.
2.Pisan: The way in which the Agta units work. They are
arranged in small groups of the nuclear family along with
extended residential groups. These groups range from around
2-5 different families and it is not common for them to be
much larger or smaller.
3. Ibay: The name for trade-partners. Ibays can last for more
than two generations and are typically formed in order to
trade meats for other goods that are not as readily available
to them.

Notable Quotes
Women are very knowledgeable
concerning flora and its use, and
among the less settled Agta, young
girls are still taught all traditional
forests lore. Brides-to-be among
these Agta are partially evaluated
on the basis of their knowledge,
skill, endurance in collecting jungle
foods (Estioko-Griffin, A., P Bion
Griffin: 127).
Perhaps most important to note is
the male participation. Sexual
division of labor is tenuously
bounded among all Agta. Emphases
may exist but a man can even build
a house (i.e., tie the fronds to the
framea female task) (EstiokoGriffin, A., P Bion Griffin: 127).

Atga women have just as much, if not more, freedom and rights that
men have.
The society does not have restrictions on what is said or done, and
anyone can speak freely. There are some exceptions in cases of marriage
arrangements, but most things can be agreed on by the entire family.
Roles can be interchangeable, and while males do hunt often, women
can as well, and will often hunt after during their teens and after
childbearing years; other jobs, such as fishing and even cultivating and
planting are done by both genders and people of all ages.
There does not seem to be many disagreements by which many of these
societies are ran, with the exception of a few groups which label men as
the primary hunters. It can be agreed on that if someone is not carrying
their weight or doing their assigned job that there may some type of
repercussion, or alienation of the person.
Everyone in the society must do their part so that it does not fail;
whether or not a man or a woman is running it, the job must be done.

Class Discussion
1. Is there a link to the percentage of food
brought by Agta hunter women and their
position within their society?
2. What other ways (besides food production)
do Agta women demonstrate personal freedom
of choice in their society?
3. What kinds of freedom do Agta women
possess that American women have fought for,
or continue to fight for?