The research described in this paper took place in several Aguaruna communities on the Nieva river, from 2002 to 2004  (Figures 2 and 3).
Additional follow-up work was also conducted in Summer, 2007. The study
communities are located in the eastern foothills of the Andes.
Elevations range from 230 m to 500 m above sea level, with mountains up
to 1000 m or so in close proximity [,
pp.42–43]. The communities and adjacent land correspond to tropical wet
forest and premontane tropical rainforest in the Holdridge scheme .
Figure 2. A view of the hill 'Tayuntsa mujaji' from near the study community of Bajo Cachiaco.
Figure 3. Map of the study area.
Aguaruna informants participated in interviews designed to determine
the most salient morphological and ecological features of folk genera
within the Aguaruna life form númi – 'trees
excluding palms.' I obtained verbal prior informed consent (PIC) for
every interview. The research followed ethical guidelines adopted by
the International Society of Ethnobiology.
For each interview, I first requested the informant to give a
freelist of all the trees he could name. These freelist data allowed
for the creation of a master list of 182 Aguaruna tree folk genera.
Next, I asked informants to list the most prominent features of each
tree name (e.g. red sap, large leaves, smooth trunk, grows by the side
of streams) in order to get an idea of how each taxon might be
recognized and distinguished from other tree taxa .
The Aguaruna use the word kumpají – 'its companion' , to describe two or more folk genera that they believe to be related. For example, the trees takák (Ocotea gracilis, Lauraceae) and máegnum (Ocotea floribunda,
Lauraceae) are said to be companions, since both have a similar bark
odor and fruit shape. As part of the structured interviews, I asked
each informant to name any companions of trees mentioned on his
freelist. Roughly two thirds of all folk genera were said to have
companions, while one third was considered to be unrelated to other
trees. Although there was a certain amount of disagreement as to which
trees are related, thirty widely recognized groups of companions were
found. For each of those groups, informants were asked to explain what
members have in common, and how each member is different from others.
In twelve of the thirty (40%) of commonly accepted groups, all members
shared a common odor. Clearly, odor can be an important clue for
recognizing which trees are related.