Forest People


Forest People Reaction Paper

Turnbull's entrance into the Ituri forest was shunned by the villagers but not by the BaMbuti. When Turnbull first visited the BaMbuti, they accepted him because they knew that he would bring plenty of tobacco, palm wine, and many other luxuries. The BaMbuti also considered him the father of all children. I personally have no basis for questioning his objectivity because of the manner in which the whole tribe accepted and respected him. It would be a difficult task for an author to fictionalize an account such as The Forest People. By allowing Turnbull to be present at the initiation in a way symbolized his initiation into the tribe. Turnbull stated, "But at the end of it all I knew something about the Pygmies, and they knew something about me, and a bond had been made between us by all the discomforts we had shared together as well as by all the fun." By this, Turnbull has obviously made an impact upon the BaMbuti. Another factor which contributed to maintaining his rapport was the fact that he was able to learn their language quickly. This is extremely important because communication in any kind of society is essential to making and keeping a functioning relationship. Also, the BaMbuti accepted him as one of the forest people because he was not an animal like the negroe villagers. Simply put, he was able to keep up and run with the BaMbuti through the forest which meant a great deal to the tribe. This meant that he was part of the forest and not an "outsider".
Based on the fact that he could move through the forest with ease and quietness, proved to the BaMbuti that Turnbull could function in their sociocultural system. For a society such as the BaMbuti, living completely dependent upon the forest meant being at one with their environment. The BaMbuti, the children of the forest, considered the Ituri Forest as their father and mother, provider of all that is good and bad. Influenced by long term customs and beliefs, they would always return to the forest after an extended amount of time in close relation to the outside world. At one point, when Turnbull returned for the second visit, he noticed some significant changes within the village. It was noted that some pygmies were physically working for the negroe villagers and adhering to their customs. Some of the BaMbuti also tried to domesticate by creating plantations in the forest, like the "animals" of the village. This completely went against the economic production element of the BaMbuti's ecological base. They were strictly a hunter-gatherer society with the occasional trading for other goods, not pastoralists or horticulturists. Because the BaMbuti strayed from the path of their ancestors, the forest grew angry and took the life of one of their oldest matriarchs, Balekimito. Normally, the tribe has no need to domesticate and try to grow their own food when there is an abundance of food provided by the forest. The women know which vines to follow to discover a delicious root, which mushrooms are edible, and which leaves from which plant are the most delicious. The men are able to track even the smallest animal paths, such as from the sindula or the larger sondu. And on occasion, the forest provides an elephant for the tribe and meat is plentiful, so plentiful that it is shared with the "savages" of the village. In return the villagers exchange items like plantains, rice or even flour.
Everything the BaMbuti need is provided by the forest. The homes they build are from materials originating from the forest. The saplings for the frames, the mongongo leaves for the roofs, and even furniture is made from the forest. The bed they sleep on, the clothes they wear, and the decorations they wear all come from the forest.
The BaMbuti camp consisted of twenty-five to thirty families. In general, everyone was equal in wealth and in power. There was however a subtle social hierarchy within the tribe between the elders and the younger bachelors and kids of the tribe. The elders gain the most respect because they are the most knowledgeable and the most experienced with the forest. It is in this way that the tribe is distributed. Some older members like Njobo, would set up camp in a certain place,