Understanding Canoe Making as a Process of Preserving Cultural Heritage

  • Debora Peterson Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg.
  • Natalia Hanazaki Department of Ecology and Zoology, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis.
  • Fabiana Li Department of Anthropology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg.
Keywords: Ethnoecology, Food security, Traditional knowledge, Caiçara, Brazil


Canoes are deeply ingrained elements of the Caiçara culture, not only for their historical and current practical uses, but also for their socio-cultural outcomes. Caiçara people are the descendants of Europeans, Africans, and Indigenous peoples who inhabit parts of the Atlantic Forest in the southern and southeastern coast of Brazil. Despite this, canoe making has been declining in several Caiçara communities, while many ongoing initiatives have attempted to encourage the maintenance of this practice. This article explores some of the Caiçara-canoe relationships within the Juatinga Ecological Reserve, in southeastern Brazil. We discuss how canoes are an appropriate technology for some fishing techniques, and are thus not easily replaced by fiberglass or aluminum boats. We also explore some socio-cultural dimensions of canoe making in light of the relationships of Caiçara canoe makers and fishers with the forest and with other community members. This article contributes to a growing body of knowledge to protect elements of Caiçara identity, including initiatives to help maintain canoes, canoe making, and the people involved with them.

Author Biographies

Debora Peterson, Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg.
Debora Peterson is a PhD candidate in the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Manitoba. Her main research interests include ethnoecology, conservation, and knowledge co-production.
Natalia Hanazaki, Department of Ecology and Zoology, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis.
Natalia Hanazaki is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Zoology at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil, where she coordinates the Human Ecology and Ethnobotany Laboratory. Her main research programs are in the field of Ecology, with expertise in human ecology, ethnoecology, ethnobiology, ethnobotany, and conservation.
Fabiana Li, Department of Anthropology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg.
Fabiana Li is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Manitoba in Canada. Her research explores the dynamics of conflicts over resource extraction and recent changes in food production in Latin America.


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How to Cite
Peterson, D., Hanazaki, N., & Li, F. (2019). Understanding Canoe Making as a Process of Preserving Cultural Heritage. Ethnobiology Letters, 10(1), 59-68. https://doi.org/10.14237/ebl.10.1.2019.1363