Kashinawa - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Hunting and slash-and-burn horticulture, supplemented by gathering and fishing, are the basis of Kashinawa subsistence. Although horticulture provides the bulk of the diet, hunting is viewed by both males and females as the single most important economic activity because meat, the product of the hunt, is the most highly valued component of the diet. A meal requires both meat and garden products to be complete, however. The significance of meat is indicated by the words for hunger; buni means to be hungry in general, whereas pinsi indicates hunger for meat. After a large repast consisting only of vegetables and fruit, people frequently complain that they are hungry, pinsi.

Industrial Arts. The Kashinawa made all of the material objects necessary for their normal activities. All such objects are gender linked. Women spun and wove cotton into skirts, hammocks, and other textile objects used by men and made ceramic pots, water jugs, toasters, bowls, and the like. They also fashioned several types of baskets and jewelry made of seeds and teeth. Men made bows and arrows, clubs and spears, some types of baskets, canoes, wooden grinding boards and rockers, and wooden mortars and pestles, as well as various wooden objects used by women in cooking and weaving. They also made feather headdresses and all ritual attire. Stone axes and turtle-shell hoes have been replaced by steel axes and machetes, and shotguns have become the major weapon for hunting, although the Kashinawa have not completely replaced bows and arrows.

Trade. Historically, the Kashinawa were not involved in trade. They exchanged goods among themselves and with other villages and tribes, but such exchanges were not the source of items new to their inventory of goods. Contact with Brazilians and Peruvians introduced trade, usually of labor for goods, within the context of debt peonage. In the second half of the twentieth century the Kashinawa have begun to sell or exchange rice and other food products and artifacts to obtain a wide range of Brazilian and Peruvian goods. A cooperative was established in one village, but it has not proven successful because most Kashinawa do not understand the market system.

Division of Labor. Certain tasks are defined as exclusively those of men or women. Kashinawa men hunt, protect women and children from spiritual and nonspiritual dangers, clear new garden areas from virgin forest, and assure the tranquility of their villages through their political and ritual activities. Women bear and care for children, tend and harvest gardens, cook vegetables and meat, and plant and harvest cotton. Fishing and foraging are primarily defined as men's work, but women may join in fish-poisoning expeditions and may forage on their way to or from the gardens. Chopping and carrying firewood and carrying water are primarily defined as women's work, but under certain circumstances men may assist their kinswomen in these chores.

Land Tenure. Land is never thought of as owned by anyone. Garden areas, hunting trails, fishing holes, and the like are frequently identified with a man but he has only rights of usufruct; others use these areas only with his permission. Although men make the gardens and build houses, ownership is vested in their wives. When a marriage is terminated, the wife keeps the house, the gardens, and the dependent children; men keep only their hammock, weapons, and other personal possessions.


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