Ethnobotanical knowledge acquisition among Tsimane' children in the Bolivian Amazon
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This dissertation is concerned with the acquisition of ethnobotanical knowledge, defined here as local knowledge about plants accumulated across generations. Ethnobotanical knowledge is highly valued for the role it plays in facilitating human survival over generations, its contribution to material culture, its role in conservation of biological diversity, nutrition, health, and agriculture. The process of ethnobotanical knowledge survival depends upon its transmission from one generation to another. To explore the issue of ethnobotanical knowledge acquisition, this dissertation focuses in the relationship of Tsimane’ children with their socio-environmental conditions. The Tsimane’ are an indigenous group traditionally of horticulturalists and hunter-gatherers located in the Department of Beni, Bolivia. The Tsimane’ are going through continual environmental and socio-cultural changes providing a rich case for this examination; they have historically had low contact with western society, are highly autarkic, and still depend highly in forest resources for their livelihood. This work explores through history, ethnography, and quantitative ethnobotany how Tsimane’ children acquire ethnobotanical knowledge. In order to explore how ethnobotanical knowledge is acquired, this work tested parent-children relationship and children’s individual characteristics with their children’s ethnobotanical knowledge. Initial hypothesis of this dissertation stated that ethnobotanical knowledge held by Tsimane’ children is positively associated to the same sex parent, this due to traditional gender division in work. I also hypothesized that children’s demographic characteristics, namely gender, age, and household, influence ethnobotanical knowledge acquisition. These hypotheses were tested with ethnobotanical knowledge tests carried out with 59 children and 39 adults, who were these children parents’. The tests were carried out using dry herbarium specimens as visual aids for prompting information about plants. Ethnographic evidence regarding ethnobotanical knowledge acquisition in Tsimane’ children shows that social relations are fundamental for gaining their expertise. Quantitative findings show that mother, instead of same sex parent contributes more strongly for children’s ethnobotanical acquisition, regardless of children sex. Results also show a strong influence of household and age in children’s learning about plants; gender does not show a strong relationship with ethnobotanical knowledge acquisition among children.