Firearms Effects on Tsimane’ Hunting and Traditional Knowledge in Bolivian Amazonia

  • Armando Medinaceli Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman.
  • Robert J. Quinlan Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman.
Keywords: Tsimane’, Traditional hunting, Firearms, Bolivia, Amazonia


Subsistence hunting is a key activity for indigenous Amazonian people. Traditional Tsimane’ bow hunting was strongly affected by the introduction of firearms over 30 years ago. Tsimane’ of Bolivia maintain traditional hunting techniques with bows and arrows, sometimes in conjunction with modern firearms. This study explores Tsimane' perceived costs and benefits of bow- versus gun-hunting. We consider cultural conservation in addition to factors typical in ecological comparisons of traditional and introduced hunting technologies. Firearms are expensive and less reliable than bows and arrows. Costs of purchasing firearms requires market engagement and surplus production to generate cash. Tsimane’ do not identify overhunting as one of the costs of firearms; though multiple studies show reduced game populations in areas under moderate to intense gun-hunting pressure. In sum, Tsimane’ identify multiple benefits to traditional hunting technology, while firearms have a strong effect of the loss of knowledge regarding fabrication of bows and arrows, and present a challenge to Tsimane’ cultural identity as bow-hunters.

Author Biographies

Armando Medinaceli, Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman.

Armando Medinaceli is an ethnobiologist with interests in biocultural diversity, ethics, community conservation, co-enquiry and collaborative approaches to research. 

Robert J. Quinlan, Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman.

Robert Quinlan is a biocultural anthropologist interested in human behavioral ecology, the integration of subsistence “technology” changes with traditional knowledge, and implications for human resilience.


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How to Cite
Medinaceli, A., & Quinlan, R. J. (2018). Firearms Effects on Tsimane’ Hunting and Traditional Knowledge in Bolivian Amazonia. Ethnobiology Letters, 9(2), 230-242.
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