Chambri - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Chambri subsist primarily on fish they catch and on sago they either baiter for with surplus fish—as they had done prior to European contact—or purchase with money. In 1987, the Chambri acquired 15 percent of their sago through barter. Principal sources of income now come from the sale of smoked fish to migrant laborers in the towns and the sale of carvings and other artifacts to art dealers and to tourists. The Chambri supplement their diet of fish and sago with greens and fruits from the forest; some also grow watermelons, yams, beans, and other vegetables during the dry season on the exposed lake bottom. Chickens and ducks are common, far more so than pigs.

Industrial Arts. Prior to European contact, the Chambri were producers and purveyors of specialized commodities used throughout the Middle Sepik region. Women wove large mosquito bags from rattan and reeds; men made tools from stone quarried on Chambri Mountain. Today, both men and women produce for the tourist trade with women weaving baskets from reeds and men carving wooden artifacts, based on traditional designs of ritual figures.

Trade. Fish-for-sago barter markets are still regularly held in the Sepik Hills between Chambri and Sepik Hills women. In addition, there is a market held twice a week on Chambri where foodstuffs are available for purchase with money.

Division of Labor. Chambri women are responsible for fishing, marketing, and food preparation. Chambri men, in addition to their ritual responsibilities, build houses, canoes, and carve artifacts. Formerly, warfare and production and trade in stone tools were also important male activities.

Land Tenure. Land is patrilineally inherited as are fishing areas. Women use the fishing areas of their husbands. It is not uncommon, in addition, for individuals to gain temporary access to the resources of their matrilateral kin.

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