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Abstract Detail

Economic Botany Section

Gershaneck, Sean [1].

Ethnobotanical Traditions of the Ryūkyūan Island of Kumejima.

The Ryūkyūan people (Okinawan: Rūchūnchu) are the indigenous inhabitants of the Ryūkyū Islands, a culturally distinct and formerly independent kingdom currently under Japanese jurisdiction. Six distinct languages are recognized, all are endangered. War, assimilation-policies, economic development and urban expansion have been destructive to the culture and biota. Ryūkyūans have one of the highest life expectancies in the world but the continued loss of traditional ethnobiological knowledge and values is reversing this. The island of Kumejima is home to speakers of several dialects of the Okinawan language who have maintained rich botanical traditions- some of which have been brought overseas into the Ryukyuan diaspora. These are not well documented. Select members of a Ryūkyūan family from Kumejima were interviewed in order to ascertain their ethnobotanical traditions. Cultural works from other parts of the Ryūkyū Islands were consulted in order to find relationships between Kumejima and the broader ethnobotany of the Ryūkyūs. The importance of plants permeate all areas of traditional life including medicine, textiles, religious practice, music, and dance both on Kumejima and within a diasporic context. The gathering of food from the mountains and the oceans provide a sustainable means of nourishment. This knowledge is disappearing amongst younger generations with the onslaught of urbanization and fast food .Plants form an important component of traditional culture on the island of Kumejima as well as in the rest of the Ryūkyūs. The importance of these plants is also maintained within the Ryūkyūan diaspora. In order to ensure cultural and ecological survival, the traditional importance of these plants should be perpetuated.

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1 - University of Hawai'i at Manoa


Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 4
Location: Union C/Hyatt
Date: Monday, July 9th, 2012
Time: 10:30 AM
Number: 4008
Abstract ID:567

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