Departmental Bulletin Paper Structure and Social Composition of Hunter Gatherer Camps : Have the Mlabri Settled Permanently?

中井, 信介  ,  池谷, 和信  ,  Shinsuke, Nakai  ,  Kazunobu, Ikeya

94pp.123 - 138 , 2016-12-08 , 国立民族学博物館
The objective of this study is to ascertain the conditions of daily life of thehunter-gatherers known as the Mlabri in Laos, and to examine the changes thathave occurred over the past 15 years in Mlabri society. In particular, the articledescribes the case of the Mlabri community inhabiting Phiang District, SainyabuliProvince. Sainyabuli is a basin created by tributaries of the Mekong River. It issurrounded by mountains, used primarily for slash-and-burn farming and inhabitedby ethnic groups that include the Lao, Khamu and Hmong. The study confirmedthe existence of a camp inhabited by only Mlabri residents is located near NaKong Village, inhabited by Lao people. Previous studies of the Mlabri in Laoshave reported on their nomadic life, around the year 2000. Field surveysconducted in 2014 for the present study identified for the first time the status of anew Mlabri settlement. At that time, new relations between the Mlabri and theirexternal society were observed, exemplified by their participation in the largeElephant Festival, held in Sainyabuli Province in February, 2014. At present, aLao village exists near the Mlabri dwellings. For that reason, rather than movingaround, Mlabri might have opted to settle there, so as to retain assist by these Laopeople. The Mlabri group, which numbers just 15 people, is likely to be livingwith the support of Lao people. Since the Lao are devotees of TheravadaBuddhism, such a virtuous act as feeding the poor would provide a support systemthe Mlabri require. Changes in Mlabri society have occurred during their transitionfrom a nomadic to a settled lifestyle. However, the authors’ findings suggest thatthe Mlabri have changed lifestyles from nomadic to settled, and then back tonomadic again. Therefore it is unlikely that they would readily opt to settlepermanently in one place.

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