Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The Aguaruna Indians of the Alto Mayo Valley of tropical eastern Peru are experiencing economic change as Spanish speaking colo- nists from the temperate highlands immigrate and begin intensive rice cultivation. The Aguaruna, subsisting until recently on hunting, gathering, and horticulture, are now being exposed to dramatically different ideas about land, agriculture, and technology. Economic change, as expressed by modification of agricultural patterns, reflects an area of close interaction between man and the environment. With the acceptance of rice cultivation among some Aguaruna in the Alto Mayo Valley a marked departure from traditional agricultural patterns has begun to emerge. Increased forest clearing, reorientation toward land as a resource, new roles for men and women in agriculture, a centralized settlement pattern, and change in community relations are manifestations of the transition to commercial agriculture. Agricultural change among the Mayo Aguaruna offers insight into how subsistence groups adjust to change in their economic world. The Aguaruna have moved from a relatively secure and sufficient subsistence economy to a production system dependent on the vagaries of unstable national and international economies. The effort of extracting an increasing amount from the physical environment, beyond subsistence needs, produces a variety of changes in the Aguaruna world. In everyday experience economic change involves modification of the Aguaruna relationship to the natural, built, and social environment. Adaptation to changes in agricultural activity demands new types of information, and traditional knowledge systems are replaced with the information necessary successfully to manage a new system of environmental exploitation. A more complex social organization and changes in material culture further indicate the reorientation from subsistence to commercial production. The complex of processes, associated with economic development and triggered by the move to cultivate commercial rice, is clearly reflected in modification of the culture and custom of the Aguaruna.