The degree of specialization may be appreciated from the fact that the Bushmen are almost exclusively dependent on wild game, the native of the western plains (USA) are the bison (wild buffalo) hunters, the Tungus and Chuck his (Russia) is the reindeer herders and hunters, while the Inuit’s (Canada, Alaska and Greenland) hunt sea mammals for their survival.
It is not only that the lifestyle of the various food gatherers and hunters varies in the different geo-climatic settings, differences are also found in their food habits, clothing, shelter, tools and modes of exchange of goods.
For example, the Inuit’s (Eskimos) and the plains hunters (USA) are living almost entirely on meat, while the Goldi (Russian tundra people) and the British Columbian coast people are largely sustaining on fish.
Depending on the food gathering economy the Semangs of Malaysia and the Paiutes of Great Basin (USA) only occasionally obtain meat-food.
The pure ‘gleaner’ who knows neither hunting nor fishing, lives exclusively on gathered fruits, nuts, leaves, stems and insects. Interestingly enough, in all the climatic regions there is a wide range of auxiliary foods which is provided by women while the staple food is obtained by men.
Collecting, hunting and fishing are carried on by the hunters and gatherers in various degrees among different peoples. ‘Pure’ gatherers, or hunters or fishers do not exist, as each one of them obtain their food either from forests or waters.
The variations in the lifestyles of the different food gatherers, hunters and herders may be appreciated from the fact that the Yakuts and Yukaghires would be amazed at the Tasmanians’ ignorance of domestic herds.
Similarly, the Melanasians would be amazed at the Yakuts and Yukaghirs ignorance of agriculture.
The East Africans (Masais) cannot understand why the Melanasians are not having metal tools 3nd vice versa, why the Masais are not using their livestock as beasts of burden and draught animals.
The food gatherers are not homeless wanderers. Even among the least organized and the poorest in equipment, the unit groups of each family occupies an inherited territory.
Each group of the Semangs of Malaysia, the Inuit’s of Canada, the bison hunters (buffalo hunters) of USA and the Bushmen of Namibia have their own well-defined territories.
It is important to observe that apart from family and group rights to territory as a whole, ownership and inheritance of particular resources is widespread among the hunting peoples.
Leaders of tribal or camp groups may be described as owning territories when they merely administer them or even have but symbolical right to them.
Among the food gatherers in general, the landholding unit is the group of families which for some period of the year jointly occupies a settlement within a fairly well-defined territory. The durian trees among the Semangs, the pine trees among the Painters, and the beehives of the Vedas of Ceylon are owned in this way.
The Australian root gatherers in Queensland transmit to their daughters the root patches that they have tended and exploited. Contrary to this in the north-west coast of USA, man own and transfer fishing territories and women transfer patches of plants to their successors. Thus, the traditions of transfer of land, water and forest territories vary from region to region and tribe to tribe.
The Bushmen, the Paiutes and the Aruntas (Australia) lack the elaborate regulation of marriage. The social and political institutions vary from tribe to tribe. Leadership, dependent on general confidence and approval, and a strict hereditary principle is more rarely applied.
The habitat and lifestyle of some of the important food gatherers like the Pygmies, the Semangs, the Sakais, the Andamanese, the Bushmen, the Paiutes, the Blackfoot’s (buffalo hunters), the Aboriginals of Australia, Yukaghirs (Siberia), and Inuit’s (Eskimos) have been described in the first part of this chapter.