Kikapu - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Kikapu economy has undergone radical changes: from the time of their residence in the United States through their migration to Mexico, the Kikapu relied on hunting and gathering, but in the early twentieth century an incipient agricultural system rapidly emerged alongside hunting and gathering, and in the 1930s the Kikapu developed a modern system of agriculture.

During the 1950s, they abandoned agricultural labor on their own lands and became temporary migrant farm workers in the United States, mostly in the states of Utah, Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Montana, and Florida. At the same time, they abandoned their taboo against breeding cattle and transformed their farm lands in El Nacimiento into grazing lands.

Industrial Arts. Elements of traditional dress such as teguas (moccasins) were made from deerskin by Kikapu women; they also did ornamental beadwork on deerskin. Because few women continue to do this kind of work, these crafts are disappearing.

Trade. The Kikapu are not active traders. For a short time in the first half of the twentieth century, they traded the excess of their harvests, wild fruits, and deerskin items to Mexicans who lived nearby. Some Kikapu continue to trade cattle to Mexicans and handicrafts to the Kikapu of Oklahoma.

Division of Labor. Kikapu men and women who are able to work as migrant farm laborers enter the work force that travels to the United States seeking these jobs. Women do housework and handcrafting; they also gather the materials for the construction of their traditional housing. Men, when in El Nacimiento, are involved only in the small commercial trade of cattle and in discussions of permanent land tenure. Young adults and children are not responsible for any productive activity while in El Nacimiento.

Land Tenure. Following the model of ejido tenure, a collective use of land, the occupation of Kikapu land in El Nacimiento is communal. During the early years of the settlement, each family was allotted a parcel of land for cultivation. The land is passed down to the next generation in order of oldest to youngest, with males having preference over females.


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