Indigenous cultures/tribes and hunter/gathering groups-food distribution

Answered on August 26, 2014
Created July 23, 2012 at 3:31 AM

I was reading some answers here and one of the answers really sparked some curiousity about how food is allotted in hunting/gathering groups around the world. Who gets the most, or is the food divided equally? What about male and female differences? Are females given alot of priority or is everyone "equal"? I'm sure the person who hunted the animal would get the most or favoured parts. I hope you all understand what Im trying to ask as I can't figure out a way to word it. Are there any websites that talk about this? I am looking forward to reading more about this.

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3 Answers



on July 23, 2012
at 04:00 AM

Many traditional hunter-gathers have a communtarian culture. For example, among the Sioux, the best hunters gave away much of their meat to show their generosity and gain social status towards being chosen for leadership positions. Traditionally the hunters were given the skulls and tongues of the buffalo they had killed, as well as the hides. But the meat was usually distributed along their family and social system. The more people you could feed, the greater the hunter you were, after all.

Through successful hunting and bravery in battle, a Sioux war would strive to distinguish himself for a future leadership role.

In small bands - as the Sioux lived in - you are concerned for the entire tribe - you are after all related to all of them in various elaborate ways. The wives of the best hunters would do a lot of sewing of clothes and blanket making, also for distribution to gain and retain social status. On feast days, the chief was expected to give gifts to various people.

Elaborate family relationship models with duties towards each rank, and the gain of status via gift exchange (including exchange of female relatives to ensure everyone has a wife if possible), is a great way to reduce conflict and jealousy, which could be fatal to the entire tribe. So it makes sense anthropologists would find such social structures in various forms around the world among hunter-gathers.


on July 23, 2012
at 01:48 PM

I have wondered about this a lot too, particularly on the differences between men and women and if and how differently they may have eaten in paleolithic times as well as in modern hunter/gatherer societies. I read somewhere that women were probably involved as much as men on hunting expeditions with the men during paleolithic times (don't remember where I read it) but not sure how much real evidence there is one way or the other. I could see there being some differences in how males and females developed genetically concerning nutrition and how they ate since there seem to be many differences now even when following a paleo diet. One example is IFing, I read all the time that it just doesn't work the same for men and women and is generally more beneficial for men, but there are women that seem to have great results with it. If the men did the hunting and gave away much of what they ate then it would make sense that women back at camp probably had food available more steadily while the men had to fast while hunting and perhaps at other times as well in order to feed the family unit. Also, women had babies, and this was probably important to the tribe to keep moms and babies healthy and well fed so women may have IF'd much less often than men if at all. I just wish I could time travel and get some real answers! :) LOL

As far as amount of food, I generally have given bigger portions to my boyfriend (who is almost a foot taller than me so definitely has more muscle mass to support, etc.) but I've started to even it out a bit because I can still eat him under the table most of the time. I don't feel like I necessarily require less food than he does, not sure why though.


on August 26, 2014
at 03:18 AM

due to slow travel time and perishability of the choice parts, those in the hunting party ate the choice internal organs raw immediatly after the hunt. brains, lungs, liver, kidneys, etc spoiled very quickly.

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