Human Ecology

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 41-67

First online:

Hunting and fishing focus among the Miskito Indians, eastern Nicaragua

  • Bernard NietschmannAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, University of Michigan

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The amounts of native animals taken in hunting and fishing by Amerind peoples are almost unknown. The interrelationships of cultural and ecological systems determine to a large extent hunting and fishing returns, focus, and strategies. This study presents data obtained in a coastal Miskito Indian village in eastern Nicaragua. Measurements were made of meat yields by species and of the time and distance inputs involved in securing fish and game. Hunting and fishing focus and strategies are adaptive mechanisms enabling the Miskito to achieve high and dependable returns from a limited number of species. Several factors are examined which influence hunting and fishing focus: dietary preferences and prohibitions, costs involved, differential productivity and dependability of particular species, seasonality and scheduling, and the impact of cash market opportunities for faunal resources. Under the impetus of population growth and rising aspirations, the Miskito's efforts to secure increasing numbers of animals for both subsistence and market are leading to severe pressures on selected species and to cultural and ecological disruptions.