Gnau - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Gnau economy consists of slash-and-burn horticulture, hunting, gathering, fishing, and, most recently, participation in the regional cash economy. Although most men work for two years or more as laborers on copra plantations and on government projects, the Gnau are still somewhat isolated from the regional economy when compared to other, neighboring groups. Sago was the traditional staple, today supplemented with taro, yams, sweet potatoes, corn, bananas, pawpaws, pitpit, breadfruit, beans, coconuts, and sugarcane grown in the gardens. A family might maintain as many as six gardens simultaneously, integrating horticultural practices with hunting and gathering activities. Rice is grown as a cash crop only; the Gnau themselves purchase from stores what rice appears in their own diet. Pigs, wallabies, and cassowaries are the principal animals hunted. Fishing is done with nets or poision. Eggs, grubs, insects, and reptiles are gathered to round out the protein component of the Gnau diet.

Industrial Arts. The Gnau traditionally were self-sufficient in meeting their material needs, producing stone axes, bows and arrows, knives, baskets, string, fish nets, net bags, skirts, ornaments of shell and feather, containers, animal traps, wooden boxes, and armbands. Many of these items are still manufactured locally today. In the past they also made clay pots.

Trade. Because of this basic self-sufficiency, trade did not play a large role in the Gnau economy. Only a few items, notably shell ornaments and stone adze heads, were occasionally acquired from beyond the community. With the coming of the mission stations, the introduction of a government presence in the area, and the beginning of wage labor on the plantations, the Gnau have become more dependent on goods purchased at the local stores.

Division of Labor. Men hunt, build houses, maintain paths, make weapons and tools, and work at jobs outside the villages. Women gather water and firewood, make string, net bags, and other items, and have primary responsibilty for child care. Both men and women fish and gather wild foods. Cooking sago is done by women, but some other foods are cooked exclusively by men, and much day-to-day cooking is done equally often by men and women.

Land Tenure. All village land, garden plots, and stands of breadfruit, sago, and coconut palms are named and owned by the patrilineages of the men currently using them.

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