The Forest People

Topics: Family, Tribe, Mbuti Pages: 7 (2872 words) Published: November 21, 2011
The Mbuti are a pigmy tribe living in the Itori Forest in Zaire. They are classified as specialized hunter gatherers. The research that will be discussed in this paper will show that the method of subsistence, and the environment in which it is practiced, has a profound impact on the way the Mbuti live. Because they are hunter gatherers, there is closeness to nature that is realized in the way their social structure is set up, as children of the forest. The Mbuti pattern their entire lives on the belief that the Itori is a living sphere, and the community lives within that sphere (Mosko, 1987). Because of their diet and relative isolation, risk of disease is fairly low (Fabrega, 1997). Sickness is a very public concern, since each individual is a contributor to the existence of the whole unit. The Itori is a rainforest in Northeastern Zaire, and does not provide enough food throughout the year to sustain the tribe. They depend on trading for foods, as well as hunting and gathering (Bailey, Head, Jenike, Owen, Rechtman, & Zechenter, 1989). The combination classifies them as specialized hunter gatherers. This particular tribe believes that the forest is everything in life. They consider it to be their God, parent, provider, and even lover (Mosko, 1987). They perceive themselves as the children of the forest and according to Mosko (1987); all tribes who are not Mbuti live outside of the Itori forest. Although they do have knowledge of lineage, the Mbuti do not practice any recognized type of kinship patterns in their social organization (Mosko 1987). There are recognitions of kinship in some practices; for instance, in rules of exogamous marriage, or when setting up camp. The huts are laid out according to patrilineage, for mutual support, but no acknowledgement of kinship is given (Mosko, 1987). The Itori, for as much as five months out of the year, does not provide the fruits and nuts the tribe needs to subsist (Bailey, Head, Jenike, Owen, Rechtman, & Zechenter, 1989). According to Bailey, Head, Jenike, Owen, Rechtman, & Zechenter (1989), sixty-five percent of the tribe’s caloric intake needs are met from sources outside the forest. The Mbuti trade either labor or wild resources from their hunting and gathering for products from horticulturalist societies to supplement their diets (Bailey, Head, Jenike, Owen, Rechtman, & Zechenter, 1989). Like other foraging societies, the Mbuti feel closely tied to nature. Their rites of passage, which will be covered later in this paper, are tied directly to the forest; their belief system begins and ends right where they live, in the forest. The Mbuti believe that the forest is their God, and possesses all of the qualities and characteristics of god, parent, and partner (Mosko, 1987). It is their provider, lover, and even punisher. According to Mosko (1987), the words for forest, hut, and womb, all mean the same thing. The Itori forest is a womb, from which comes life. It is a sphere, with a center, which is quiet (Mosko, 1987). The Mbuti themselves each live in a sphere, which moves with them to keep them in the center. According to Mosko (1987), if people move too fast or in a violent manner, the sphere cannot keep them in the center. They become irrational and disoriented. The Mbuti believe that they may even break through the sphere and enter a different world. The center of the forest sphere is reserved for the essence of the forest (Mosko, 1987). This place is kept uninhabited, and is a non-hunting area. The possible exception may be when hunting big game. The reverence that the Mbuti have for the Itori extends to everything in the forest. They believe that all living things have a spirit, according to Mosko (1987), and are equal. Being part of the forest as a whole, and as its children, is a simplistic ideal, brought about by their dependence on the forest for their subsistence. The idea of being children of the forest...
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