Gururumba - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Subsistence was dependent on a system of swidden horticulture supplemented by hunting and gathering. The major domesticated food plants were sweet potatoes, yams, taro, sugarcane, and a variety of greens. Pandanus was a major wild food plant. The pig was the main domesticated food animal, but it was not raised primarily to yield a continuous meat supply. Pigs were Important as prestations between individuals and groups, and they were slaughtered and eaten in such a manner as to facilitate the political economy rather than the larder. Many kinds of birds, marsupials, rodents, and reptiles were hunted and eaten, although primarily by women and children as these animals as food were taboo to adult men. Corn, peanuts, soybeans, and a variety of other European vegetables have been grown since the 1950s, as has coffee, which was the first Commercial enterprise for the Gururumba.

Industrial Arts. There were no specialized artisans in traditional Gururumba society. Almost every adult knew how to produce the material necessities, although some people were recognized as being particularly adept at a certain process and thus their help was sometimes sought, as in making a particular kind of intricately decorated arrow.

Trade. Simple barter based on a system of equivalencies was the traditional mode of trade. Feathers of all kinds (but especially bird of paradise plumes), wood for bows, ornamental arrows, ceremonial stone axes, shells, salt, and pigs were important trade items, and the Gururumba made treks (at some risk) into other language areas, such as Gende and Siane, to obtain them.

Division of Labor. Division of labor was primarily by sex and age. The bulk of the gardening was done by the women, although certain garden tasks (cutting fence posts and building fences) were allotted to men, and certain plants (sugarcane and taro) were only grown by men. Men hunted, women collected; men built houses, women thatched; man made tools and weapons, women made a variety of bags, skirts, and bands of bast and other fibers; and men acted as guards against enemy attack while women worked in exposed gardens.

Land Tenure. The Gururumba comprise eight patriclans and it is through these that a person gains access to land. Each patriclan is named and identified with a territory clearly bounded by major ridge lines and watercourses, and encompassing all the major ecological zones, from the rich alluvial soils near the river through the hilly grassland and into the rain forest. The full extent of a clan territory is divided into named plots, each of which has a characteristic potential for certain kinds of crops and resources. These plots tend to be associated with particular lineages within clans, but one of the functions of clan leadership is to facilitate equitable distribution of productive and less productive plots.

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