Tribal Tools For Living

Tribal people are almost universally forced to live in relatively inhospitable terrain, and the groups in Southeast Asia are no exception. The mountains are lovely, but the growing season is short, irrigation is problematic, and erosion makes agriculture chancy at best. But people adapt, because they must. They work out technologic responses to the environment, embrace them, and retain them tenaciously.

Though the government of Viet Nam is striving to expand the availability of electricity, much of the pre-industrial technology remains. Tools for hunting change little because newer weapons are too expensive. The technology of agriculture changes little because the rice terraces remain the same. But that mix of voluntary and compulsory traditionalism gives rise to objects of great beauty as well as high efficiency. We love especially those things that demonstrate “the desire for beauty” in every day life on the part of even the most stressed communities.


Great baskets for every job; specific to task, gender, age, and tribe.
Tools for woodworking (bow drills, push drills) and house-building.
Implements for hunting (crossbow, muskets, and related equipment).
Objects for fishing: traps, creels, net-making tools.
Tools for raising rice, harvesting opium, and other crops.
Tools for weaving (often specific to one tribe or group): shuttles, loom-beaters, cotton gins, spinning wheels, etc..