Hunter-Gatherers

Hunter-Gatherers – A lifeway employed by the majority of indigenous peoples, especially shamanic communities, involving the hunting of such game as deer, fish, and whales and the gathering of shellfish, fruit, honey, and so on. The terms gatherer-hunter and thoughtful forager, though problematic in their own right, have been used to iterate the prominence of gathering over hunting and to challenge the hierarchy of “man the hunter” and “woman the gatherer.” But these gender divisions of labor are often permeable. “Huntergatherer” retains currency, although it is overtly simplistic to define a people based on their economic strategy alone (the same could be said of modern Westerners as “capitalists”). Shamans are crucially important in many hunter-gatherer communities, especially those more dependent on hunting, where harmony between human and other-than-human persons is disrupted by the violence (killing for food) they inevitably do to one another. Shamans are indispensable as relationship brokers between human and other-than-human people, in persuading game to become a hunter’s quarry, and to make reparation for the breaking of taboos. As a slippery academic construct, while shamanism tends to be associated with hunter-gatherers, it might equally be applied to such contexts as farming (e.g., the megalithic art of post–Agrarian Revolution Europe and its possible origin in an altered state of consciousness) and capitalism (e.g., the Korean kam).

SOURCE:

Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007

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