Unit III: Subsistence Systems

Wild rice cultivation in Manitoba

The anthropological study of subsistence, often termed cultural ecology, covers the basic tools, techniques, and organizational arrangements (technology) that people have developed to obtain food and other material resources from their natural surroundings (environment).

It focuses upon providing a detailed account of the system of material production and looks at how subsistence relates to other aspects of social organization and culture: settlement forms, family life, political organization, and ideology and religion.


  1. Cultural Evolution – emphasis on general subsistence types depending on technologies of food production.
  2. Cultural Ecology – emphasis on adaptation to local environments through use of technology and patterns of social organization. 
  3. Indigenous Knowledge Systems - emphasis on local systems of classifying, utilizing, and managing environmental resources.

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