The Guarani are a great example of an Indigenous subsistence people

The Guarani are a great example of an Indigenous subsistence people


The Guarani are a great example of an Indigenous subsistence people that lived under a sustainable development strategy that used mixed production to both preserve their way of life in the forest but also to maintain relationship and peace with the merchants involved with global trade.

The Guarani had an understanding of the ecology and ecosystem of the forest and used a horticultural strategy of slash and burn that rotated their fields while allowing the soil, forest and ecosystem around them to return regularly.  This sustainable practice is also flexible in the sense that as they see merchants seeking valuables for market the Guarani are able to find what the merchants see as valuable and join in their trade program by expanding their production plots for those goods.  They did this while maintaining the horticultural strategies they were good at employing.  Their strength was in their understanding of the forest ecosystem and desire for good relations with their neighbors.  They were able to produce the yerba-mate and leaves from wild orange trees and trade those for the machetes, hooks, soap and salt that were easy for the merchants to access.  This strategy by the Guarani shows that the basis of good sustainable practice is being able to meet your needs through understanding the ecological relationship of the land around you and balancing that with maintaining positive relationships with your neighbors.  This maintains peace while protecting your way of life.

Societies make decisions differently depending on the authority given to their leaders.  For the Hunting and gathering, pastoral and horticultural societies the tribes and bands of people are small enough that the leaders make decisions based on the consensus of the group and for the betterment of their tribe or band.  Conflicts are resolved through similar means.  This differs from the Agricultural and Industrial Societies.  In these there are either Chiefdom or state governments.  Here the authority and decision making power is given to the government or chief.  These societies differ by not relying solely on the environment for their lively hood.  Man made structures are built for water diversion and soil maintenance in terms of agriculture and for factory and industrial development for industrial societies.  This requirement of support services creates a hierarchy of those who have the control of the food sources and those in support.  The decision making can range from concentrated power in a lone chief or dictator to a complex network involving many people and power centers with authorities over certain areas but not concentrated in one place. Conflict resolution can be just as complicated working through bureaucracy or simple with decisions being made by a chief or judge.


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