Tropical rainforests are home to indigenous peoples who rely on their surroundings for food, shelter, and medicines. Today very few forest people live in traditional ways; most have been displaced by outside settlers or have been forced to give up their lifestyles by governments.

Of the remaining forest people, the Amazon supports the largest native, or indigenous populations, although these people, too, have been impacted by the modern world. While they still depend on the forest for traditional hunting and gathering, most Amerindians, as American indigenous people are called, grow crops (like bananas, manioc, and rice), use western goods (like metal pots, pans, and utensils), and make regular trips to towns and cities to bring foods and wares to market. Still, these forest people can teach us a lot about the rainforest. Their knowledge of medicinal plants used for treating illness is unmatched, and they have a great understanding of the ecology of the Amazon rainforest.

In Africa there are native forest dwellers sometimes known as pygmies. The tallest of these people, also called the Mbuti, rarely exceed 5 feet in height. Their small size enables them to move about the forest more efficiently than taller people.

 

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Review questions

  • Who lives in the rainforest?
  • Where do the greatest number of indigenous rainforest peoples live today?
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