Title: Traditional Ecological Knowledge of Swidden Farmers in Northeast India: A Reflection from the Kukis of Manipur
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies and Humanities
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Thanglienmang Haokip, Indian Institute of Technology, India
Traditional ecological knowledge and practices of indigenous people have received wide recognition in global conservation paradigms since recently. This paper, drawing from ethnographic fieldwork in India’s Northeast, explores how the Kukis of Manipur understand their local environment and shape their livelihood activities. Until the advent of Christianity in the early 20th century, the Kukis believed in animism. To them, all ecological entities, especially the forest, are home to Thilha, a collection of numerous malevolent spirits. Claiming absolute ownership over the forest resources including plants (trees) and animals, the inanimate beings are believed to be causing sickness, and even death, to human beings who disgruntle them. Despite this animistic belief, the Kukis cleared and burned forests every year for the purpose of crop production for their survival. But to avoid troubles from the forest spirit, they used to perform rituals and follow taboos. Further, in their practice of shifting cultivation, the Kukis depended on the local environment for all their farming activities. The position of the moon, calls of certain birds, landscape, climatic conditions and movement of the air - all help in shaping their swidden activities. This paper suggests that acknowledging swiddeners relations to the environment is essential to achieve better results in conservation and development projects.
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