Natural Resource Utilisation amongNatural Resource Utilisation among
the Nyishisthe Nyishis of Arunachal Pradesh:of Arunac...
Introduction:Introduction:
 The subject of the interrelatedness between indigenousThe subject of the interrelatedness bet...
 The focus is on exploring the significance of the IKSThe focus is on exploring the significance of the IKS
concerning th...
 As such, the term and concept ofAs such, the term and concept of Balla-barnamBalla-barnam
(things created or rather, nat...
 Thus,Thus, Balla-barnamBalla-barnam does not posit an historicaldoes not posit an historical
essence of natural resource...
 This is how a paradox of conflicting realities aboutThis is how a paradox of conflicting realities about
interpreting th...
Methodology:Methodology:
 Two interlinked methods, the phenomenologicalTwo interlinked methods, the phenomenological
and ...
 In the application of the participant observationIn the application of the participant observation
approach, a face-to-f...
Study Area:Study Area:
 The fieldwork was conducted for six weeks inThe fieldwork was conducted for six weeks in
between ...
Result:Result:
The Irony of Challenging PerceptionsThe Irony of Challenging Perceptions
 Diverse cultures hold divergent ...
 First, there is the dominance of the westernFirst, there is the dominance of the western
worldview about natural resourc...
Some Western PerspectivesSome Western Perspectives
 The Western notions about the relationshipThe Western notions about t...
Some Nyishi PerspectivesSome Nyishi Perspectives
 While describing Nyishi perspective, it may beWhile describing Nyishi p...
Symbolism and Utility of Natural ResourcesSymbolism and Utility of Natural Resources
 The Nyishis have a holistic underst...
 As a number of informants for the study haveAs a number of informants for the study have
affirmed, the Nyishi tribe stro...
 The Nyishi have a positive attitude towards non-The Nyishi have a positive attitude towards non-
human animals.human ani...
 It must also be mentioned that natural resourcesIt must also be mentioned that natural resources
have both tangible and ...
 The pattern of natural resource utility among theThe pattern of natural resource utility among the
Nyishis is centred ar...
 Such selective use of species is deeply rooted inSuch selective use of species is deeply rooted in
the religious worldvi...
 In Nyishi cosmic vision,In Nyishi cosmic vision, abu-apaabu-apa aramaram, the, the
ancestral spirits, are viewed as havi...
 The Nyishi tradition says that a person whoThe Nyishi tradition says that a person who
destroys any culturally restricte...
 This is one practical way the Nyishis come toThis is one practical way the Nyishis come to
conserve their environment ea...
Conclusion:Conclusion:
 The significance of indigenous knowledge systemsThe significance of indigenous knowledge systems
...
 Their relevance and vibrancy in the utilization andTheir relevance and vibrancy in the utilization and
conservation of n...
Thank You…!!!Thank You…!!!
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Natural resource utilisation among the nyishis of arunachal pradesh a reflection on the significance of indigenous knowledge systems (iks) (edited)

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  • The significance of indigenous knowledge systems in environmental management programmes is neglected, yet, it is vital if tribal communities have to fully participate in environmental conservation. As the study has indicated, the neglect is not due to irrelevance of the indigenous knowledge system in environmental management but it is rather the failure to understand environmental concerns and dilemmas of the Nyishis. It was noted that the Nyishi tribal people have a rich tradition of norms and taboos that are stranded in the religio-cultural milieu of the society. Their relevance and vibrancy in
  • Natural resource utilisation among the nyishis of arunachal pradesh a reflection on the significance of indigenous knowledge systems (iks) (edited)

    1. 1. Natural Resource Utilisation amongNatural Resource Utilisation among the Nyishisthe Nyishis of Arunachal Pradesh:of Arunachal Pradesh: A ReflectionA Reflection on the Significance of Indigenouson the Significance of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS)Knowledge Systems (IKS) Tame Ramya Ph.D. Scholar Department of Anthropology Rajiv Gandhi University [A Central University] Rono Hills, Doimukh - 791112, Arunachal Pradesh, India. Email: tameramya@rediffmail.com
    2. 2. Introduction:Introduction:  The subject of the interrelatedness between indigenousThe subject of the interrelatedness between indigenous knowledge in resource management and ecology orknowledge in resource management and ecology or environment continues to grow in contemporaryenvironment continues to grow in contemporary researches.researches.  This study is part of the surging debate pertaining to theThis study is part of the surging debate pertaining to the link between IKS and natural resources.link between IKS and natural resources.  The paper discusses the critical issues on the symbolismThe paper discusses the critical issues on the symbolism and utilisation of natural resources among the Nyishiand utilisation of natural resources among the Nyishi tribal people in Arunachal Pradesh.tribal people in Arunachal Pradesh.  The Nyishi share a common heritage which tries toThe Nyishi share a common heritage which tries to explore the vitality of indigenous knowledge systems inexplore the vitality of indigenous knowledge systems in ecological management, yet they have been neglected.ecological management, yet they have been neglected.
    3. 3.  The focus is on exploring the significance of the IKSThe focus is on exploring the significance of the IKS concerning the utility of natural resources.concerning the utility of natural resources.  The IKS is the knowledge that is characterised by itsThe IKS is the knowledge that is characterised by its embeddedness in the cultural web and history of aembeddedness in the cultural web and history of a people which forms the backbone of the socio-people which forms the backbone of the socio- economic identity of such people.economic identity of such people.  In traditional Nyishi context, natural resource use,In traditional Nyishi context, natural resource use, management and conservation are products ofmanagement and conservation are products of people’s spirituality, culture, practices, taboopeople’s spirituality, culture, practices, taboo systems and knowledge accumulated oversystems and knowledge accumulated over centuries.centuries.  The major contention of this study is that the NyishisThe major contention of this study is that the Nyishis view themselves as symbiotically related to physicalview themselves as symbiotically related to physical environment since nature is intimately and ultimatelyenvironment since nature is intimately and ultimately correlated to the spiritual world.correlated to the spiritual world.
    4. 4.  As such, the term and concept ofAs such, the term and concept of Balla-barnamBalla-barnam (things created or rather, natural phenomena)(things created or rather, natural phenomena) occupies a central position in the interpretation ofoccupies a central position in the interpretation of the symbols and utility of natural resource use andthe symbols and utility of natural resource use and conservation among the Nyishi people.conservation among the Nyishi people.  Balla-barnamBalla-barnam is imbued with use-values and takesis imbued with use-values and takes on meaning through people’s daily livelihoodon meaning through people’s daily livelihood struggles.struggles.  There is a sense of collective responsibility onThere is a sense of collective responsibility on meaning that each and every member of themeaning that each and every member of the community is bound to ensure that he or shecommunity is bound to ensure that he or she extracts resources from the physical environmentextracts resources from the physical environment without compromising the ability of present andwithout compromising the ability of present and future generations to meet their natural needs in afuture generations to meet their natural needs in a sustainable way.sustainable way.
    5. 5.  Thus,Thus, Balla-barnamBalla-barnam does not posit an historicaldoes not posit an historical essence of natural resource use but it accommodatesessence of natural resource use but it accommodates a range of cosmologies and religious idioms: aa range of cosmologies and religious idioms: a supreme being known assupreme being known as Ane-DonyiAne-Donyi, guardian spirits, guardian spirits known asknown as sobu-uyubsobu-uyub and a plethora of wanderingand a plethora of wandering spirits known asspirits known as uyubuyub..  All these spiritual entities are perceived to holdAll these spiritual entities are perceived to hold responsibility in the process of creation.responsibility in the process of creation.  In light of the study findings, therefore, the hypothesisIn light of the study findings, therefore, the hypothesis that tribals are reckless and irresponsible in managingthat tribals are reckless and irresponsible in managing their ecology or environment is not justified anymore.their ecology or environment is not justified anymore.  Rather, it must be asserted that the tribal people wereRather, it must be asserted that the tribal people were and still conscious of the importance of conservingand still conscious of the importance of conserving natural environment.natural environment.
    6. 6.  This is how a paradox of conflicting realities aboutThis is how a paradox of conflicting realities about interpreting the environmental crisis comes to theinterpreting the environmental crisis comes to the forefront.forefront.  The adoption by Nyishis of such strategies suchThe adoption by Nyishis of such strategies such as poaching, deliberate burning of forests oras poaching, deliberate burning of forests or woodlands and wanton killing of straying animalswoodlands and wanton killing of straying animals for meat must be understood in a wider context.for meat must be understood in a wider context.  This context ultimately points to an expression ofThis context ultimately points to an expression of resentment on part of the tribal people.resentment on part of the tribal people.  In addition, resistance is not so much ofIn addition, resistance is not so much of ‘misunderstanding’ the science of technical‘misunderstanding’ the science of technical development but of seeing it as ‘irrationalitydevelopment but of seeing it as ‘irrationality involved in ruling Nyishis and robbing them ofinvolved in ruling Nyishis and robbing them of resources’.resources’.
    7. 7. Methodology:Methodology:  Two interlinked methods, the phenomenologicalTwo interlinked methods, the phenomenological and participant observation approaches were usedand participant observation approaches were used in this study.in this study.  The phenomenological method was very handyThe phenomenological method was very handy because it is concerned with seeing abecause it is concerned with seeing a phenomenon or behaviour or religion as thephenomenon or behaviour or religion as the adherents see them, rather that imposing any sortadherents see them, rather that imposing any sort of external value judgement.of external value judgement.  Accordingly, the Nyishi cultural beliefs andAccordingly, the Nyishi cultural beliefs and practices on the utilisation and management ofpractices on the utilisation and management of natural resources were studied.natural resources were studied.
    8. 8.  In the application of the participant observationIn the application of the participant observation approach, a face-to-face interaction with theapproach, a face-to-face interaction with the people in their natural existential settings waspeople in their natural existential settings was undertaken.undertaken.  Through the participant observation technique, theThrough the participant observation technique, the research was positively shaped in three ways,research was positively shaped in three ways, which are:which are: -Field investigation was done-Field investigation was done in situin situ, that is, in tribal, that is, in tribal people’s situatedness and culturedness.people’s situatedness and culturedness. -The interaction with the people was direct and this-The interaction with the people was direct and this yielded first hand data.yielded first hand data. -The gained understanding of the socio-cultural milieu-The gained understanding of the socio-cultural milieu that helped to draw findings about their perspectivesthat helped to draw findings about their perspectives on natural resource use and ecological management.on natural resource use and ecological management.
    9. 9. Study Area:Study Area:  The fieldwork was conducted for six weeks inThe fieldwork was conducted for six weeks in between March and April 2012 among the Nyishisbetween March and April 2012 among the Nyishis of Kurung Kumey district in Arunachal Pradeshof Kurung Kumey district in Arunachal Pradesh who inhabited geographical belt shares a ‘hardwho inhabited geographical belt shares a ‘hard international border’ with Tibet (China) in the northinternational border’ with Tibet (China) in the north (Figure 1).(Figure 1).
    10. 10. Result:Result: The Irony of Challenging PerceptionsThe Irony of Challenging Perceptions  Diverse cultures hold divergent worldviews aboutDiverse cultures hold divergent worldviews about the place of humanity within the universe.the place of humanity within the universe.  The major contention is on the place of humanityThe major contention is on the place of humanity in the context of their environment.in the context of their environment.  This raises questions about how humans mayThis raises questions about how humans may interact with nature especiallyinteract with nature especially vis-à-visvis-à-vis thethe utilisation of natural resources.utilisation of natural resources.  Two competing perspectives can be identified.Two competing perspectives can be identified.
    11. 11.  First, there is the dominance of the westernFirst, there is the dominance of the western worldview about natural resource conservationworldview about natural resource conservation generated debate because of its failure to addressgenerated debate because of its failure to address environmental concerns and dilemmas.environmental concerns and dilemmas.  The shortcomings rest on its failure to distinguishThe shortcomings rest on its failure to distinguish what is being said and the way it is being said bywhat is being said and the way it is being said by the Nyishis themselves. Second, there is an Nyishithe Nyishis themselves. Second, there is an Nyishi perspective and does a call for a radical departureperspective and does a call for a radical departure from the current understand.from the current understand.  This latter perspective gives indigenousThis latter perspective gives indigenous knowledge systems the importance they deserveknowledge systems the importance they deserve with regard to natural resources utilisation andwith regard to natural resources utilisation and conservation.conservation.
    12. 12. Some Western PerspectivesSome Western Perspectives  The Western notions about the relationshipThe Western notions about the relationship between people and environment constructbetween people and environment construct humans as fundamentally isolated from the rest ofhumans as fundamentally isolated from the rest of nature.nature.  It perceives humanity as quite superior and inIt perceives humanity as quite superior and in charge of the rest of creation (Devall andcharge of the rest of creation (Devall and Sessions, 2000).Sessions, 2000).  The technocratic-industrial worldview constructs aThe technocratic-industrial worldview constructs a wilderness image in which nature is seen as awilderness image in which nature is seen as a potentially productive landscape or must bepotentially productive landscape or must be preserved in its pristine state.preserved in its pristine state.
    13. 13. Some Nyishi PerspectivesSome Nyishi Perspectives  While describing Nyishi perspective, it may beWhile describing Nyishi perspective, it may be stated that ‘humans and their changingstated that ‘humans and their changing environments are reciprocally inscribed inenvironments are reciprocally inscribed in cosmological ideas and cultural understanding,cosmological ideas and cultural understanding, they are part of each other: the forest is thethey are part of each other: the forest is the people, in the same way that ancestors can be, inpeople, in the same way that ancestors can be, in a sense, extensions of the living’.a sense, extensions of the living’.  Like the rest of tribes in Arunachal Pradesh, theLike the rest of tribes in Arunachal Pradesh, the Nyishi tribal people regard nature and society asNyishi tribal people regard nature and society as inseparable.inseparable.  The Nyishi have a divine reverence of the naturalThe Nyishi have a divine reverence of the natural landscape as it has a symbol of ancestral (landscape as it has a symbol of ancestral (abu-abu- apaapa) and other guardian spirits () and other guardian spirits (sobu-uyubsobu-uyub).).
    14. 14. Symbolism and Utility of Natural ResourcesSymbolism and Utility of Natural Resources  The Nyishis have a holistic understanding of natureThe Nyishis have a holistic understanding of nature that manifests itself in the symbolism and the way theythat manifests itself in the symbolism and the way they utilise natural resources.utilise natural resources.  The Nyishis of Kurung Kumey district take intoThe Nyishis of Kurung Kumey district take into account the interests of not only sentiment beings butaccount the interests of not only sentiment beings but the whole of nature in general.the whole of nature in general.  The preference of species not only depends on theThe preference of species not only depends on the utility of species but also on the symbolic meaningsutility of species but also on the symbolic meanings and interpretations that are rooted in their cosmicand interpretations that are rooted in their cosmic vision.vision.  The rules and regulations relating to the use of naturalThe rules and regulations relating to the use of natural resources and the allocation of land are mediatedresources and the allocation of land are mediated through a combination of spiritual considerations andthrough a combination of spiritual considerations and the unwritten customary law.the unwritten customary law.
    15. 15.  As a number of informants for the study haveAs a number of informants for the study have affirmed, the Nyishi tribe strongly believe thataffirmed, the Nyishi tribe strongly believe that continuity of social, religious and economiccontinuity of social, religious and economic aspects of life can be sustained by living inaspects of life can be sustained by living in harmony with the environment itself.harmony with the environment itself.  Therefore, the Nyishis show their gesture ofTherefore, the Nyishis show their gesture of veneration by making some forests, animals andveneration by making some forests, animals and other parts of the natural landscape sacred.other parts of the natural landscape sacred.  The value the Nyishis place on the regeneration ofThe value the Nyishis place on the regeneration of the environment is inextricably linked to thethe environment is inextricably linked to the centrality of descendants in their tradition. In othercentrality of descendants in their tradition. In other words, the continuity of the society rests on thewords, the continuity of the society rests on the concept of descendants and regeneration of theconcept of descendants and regeneration of the environment.environment.
    16. 16.  The Nyishi have a positive attitude towards non-The Nyishi have a positive attitude towards non- human animals.human animals.  Their dislike of cruelty to non-humans, animals andTheir dislike of cruelty to non-humans, animals and the environment itself is reflected through taboos.the environment itself is reflected through taboos.  Taboos are designed to enforce positive societalTaboos are designed to enforce positive societal attitudes towards the environment.attitudes towards the environment.  The Nyishis, through the observance of taboos, wereThe Nyishis, through the observance of taboos, were and still are able to control the indiscriminateand still are able to control the indiscriminate harvesting of forest products, protect water sourcesharvesting of forest products, protect water sources and species of spiritual, nutritional and medicinal valueand species of spiritual, nutritional and medicinal value and even rare species.and even rare species.  For instance, ordinary people do not kill an animalFor instance, ordinary people do not kill an animal calledcalled pateypatey, a lion that carries special status in Nyishi, a lion that carries special status in Nyishi society. This is because Nyishi people considersociety. This is because Nyishi people consider pateypatey (lion) as their elder brother.(lion) as their elder brother.
    17. 17.  It must also be mentioned that natural resourcesIt must also be mentioned that natural resources have both tangible and intangible utilities thathave both tangible and intangible utilities that range from serving the physical needs to theirrange from serving the physical needs to their significance in the religious lives of the people.significance in the religious lives of the people.  Of particular note is the fact that naturalOf particular note is the fact that natural environment provides timber and non-timber forestenvironment provides timber and non-timber forest products, wildlife and water resources, amongproducts, wildlife and water resources, among others.others.  The non-timber forest products include grazingThe non-timber forest products include grazing and browsing, traditional medicinesand browsing, traditional medicines (ethnomedicines), wild fruits, fuel wood, litter leaf,(ethnomedicines), wild fruits, fuel wood, litter leaf, craft materials and construction materials.craft materials and construction materials.
    18. 18.  The pattern of natural resource utility among theThe pattern of natural resource utility among the Nyishis is centred around the emphasis they placeNyishis is centred around the emphasis they place on the multipurpose of species and theon the multipurpose of species and the sacredness of selected species.sacredness of selected species.  In other words, this pattern is a by-product of theIn other words, this pattern is a by-product of the veneration of socially selected sacred species andveneration of socially selected sacred species and places as well as the role of species to humanplaces as well as the role of species to human health as sources of food and medicines and theirhealth as sources of food and medicines and their importance in household production andimportance in household production and reproduction.reproduction.  For instance, as some informant has claimed,For instance, as some informant has claimed, Sangrik-sangneySangrik-sangney (Banyan tree) is not used for(Banyan tree) is not used for construction purposes because it is considered asconstruction purposes because it is considered as an abode of evil spirits placed.an abode of evil spirits placed.
    19. 19.  Such selective use of species is deeply rooted inSuch selective use of species is deeply rooted in the religious worldview of the Nyishi people andthe religious worldview of the Nyishi people and posits an intimate relationship between the socialposits an intimate relationship between the social life and environmental management.life and environmental management.  The Nyishi tribal people have a complex systemThe Nyishi tribal people have a complex system that fuses environmental management into socialthat fuses environmental management into social life.life.  There are traditional arrangements that promoteThere are traditional arrangements that promote sustainable utilization of natural resources. Onesustainable utilization of natural resources. One informant summarized that the community ensuresinformant summarized that the community ensures that everyone has a place to stay and farm.that everyone has a place to stay and farm.  Even when people goEven when people go nyotumnyotum (hunting) they share(hunting) they share the parts of the killed animal regardless of howthe parts of the killed animal regardless of how small it is and how many hunters there are.small it is and how many hunters there are.
    20. 20.  In Nyishi cosmic vision,In Nyishi cosmic vision, abu-apaabu-apa aramaram, the, the ancestral spirits, are viewed as having a more orancestral spirits, are viewed as having a more or less equal role as the living with regard to both theless equal role as the living with regard to both the utilization of natural resources and theirutilization of natural resources and their conservation.conservation.  These ancestors are many times consulted byThese ancestors are many times consulted by people to give advice on how to share andpeople to give advice on how to share and distribute in ways that reflect human values ofdistribute in ways that reflect human values of equity, fairness and justice.equity, fairness and justice.  When there is a lack of these values ancestorsWhen there is a lack of these values ancestors can cause mishaps to befall the malcontents.can cause mishaps to befall the malcontents. Several mysterious incidents encountered bySeveral mysterious incidents encountered by people who break ancestral rules and regulationspeople who break ancestral rules and regulations are awash in Nyishi society and traditions.are awash in Nyishi society and traditions.
    21. 21.  The Nyishi tradition says that a person whoThe Nyishi tradition says that a person who destroys any culturally restricted plant species ordestroys any culturally restricted plant species or killing any traditionally prohibited animals, s/he iskilling any traditionally prohibited animals, s/he is believe to be carried away by abelieve to be carried away by a yapam-sangpamyapam-sangpam oror nyobii-yachumnyobii-yachum (a miraculous human-like(a miraculous human-like creatures) to distant land for many days.creatures) to distant land for many days.  In evaluating this tradition, among others, we seeIn evaluating this tradition, among others, we see that it acts as a deterrent to other would-bethat it acts as a deterrent to other would-be ‘lawbreakers’ so that no one would never ever‘lawbreakers’ so that no one would never ever attempt to pluck the plants and kill the animals.attempt to pluck the plants and kill the animals.  In functional terms the tradition discouragesIn functional terms the tradition discourages wayward people not to pollute or destroy thewayward people not to pollute or destroy the environment.environment.
    22. 22.  This is one practical way the Nyishis come toThis is one practical way the Nyishis come to conserve their environment each time everyconserve their environment each time every person is conscious to respect the traditions of theperson is conscious to respect the traditions of the people as a collective group and as a cultural unit.people as a collective group and as a cultural unit.  In this analysis, this is how traditions of a people inIn this analysis, this is how traditions of a people in any cultural milieu are part of a rich indigenousany cultural milieu are part of a rich indigenous knowledge system and when linked to naturalknowledge system and when linked to natural resources conservation, become an effectiveresources conservation, become an effective strategy.strategy.
    23. 23. Conclusion:Conclusion:  The significance of indigenous knowledge systemsThe significance of indigenous knowledge systems in environmental management programmes isin environmental management programmes is neglected, yet, it is vital if tribal communities haveneglected, yet, it is vital if tribal communities have to fully participate in environmental conservation.to fully participate in environmental conservation.  As the study has indicated, the neglect is not dueAs the study has indicated, the neglect is not due to irrelevance of the indigenous knowledge systemto irrelevance of the indigenous knowledge system in environmental management but it is rather thein environmental management but it is rather the failure to understand environmental concerns andfailure to understand environmental concerns and dilemmas of the Nyishis.dilemmas of the Nyishis.  It was noted that the Nyishi tribal people have aIt was noted that the Nyishi tribal people have a rich tradition of norms and taboos that arerich tradition of norms and taboos that are stranded in the religio-cultural milieu of the society.stranded in the religio-cultural milieu of the society.   
    24. 24.  Their relevance and vibrancy in the utilization andTheir relevance and vibrancy in the utilization and conservation of natural resources,conservation of natural resources, Balla-barnam,Balla-barnam, should not be underestimated.should not be underestimated.  The indigenous knowledge systems should be anThe indigenous knowledge systems should be an integral part of tribal community participation inintegral part of tribal community participation in environmental management strategies from theenvironmental management strategies from the foundation of the formulation phase tofoundation of the formulation phase to implementation.implementation.
    25. 25. Thank You…!!!Thank You…!!!

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