Maisin - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Maisin practice slash-and-burn horticulture, shifting their gardens every two to three years. Staples include taro, sweet potatoes, plantains, and sago supplemented by coconuts, papayas, sugarcane, watermelons, squash, and sweet bananas. The usual gardening tools are digging sticks and machetes. Villagers enjoy fish and shellfish, which they gather by hand, line, net, and spear. They also hunt wild pigs, cassowaries, wallabies, and birds in the dense forests that surround the villages using spears and shotguns. They supplement this local diet with white rice and tinned meats and fish purchased in local trade stores. Domestic animals include chickens, dogs, and cats. The Local Government Council banned village pigs in the mid-1960s. There is a tiny commercial market for copra and a somewhat larger one for tapa. Villagers receive most of their cash and commodities as gifts from relatives working in the towns.

Industrial Arts. Maisin villagers continue to produce much of their material culture: string bags, tapa, houses, and outrigger canoes. They purchase some items, like clay cooking pots, from neighboring peoples. Many items, such as clothing, fishing nets, and cooking utensils, are quickly being replaced by factory products.

Trade. Into early colonial times, Maisin traded tapa, stone axe blades, and food for shell and obsidian with peoples to the east on Cape Vogel and Goodenough Island. They continue to trade occasionally with interior tribes for net bags, dogs, and feathers and with Wanigela people for cooking pots. Sometimes they exchange tapa for these things, but more often they pay money. Small trade stores, often operating out of village houses, sell tobacco and a few tinned items. Some villages hold weekly markets where women sell or Exchange garden produce and tapa.

Division of Labor. There is a marked division of labor in most areas of life. Men clear and burn off garden land, erect fences against bush pigs, and help women plant crops. Men also hunt, fish, and build houses and canoes. Women plant, weed, and harvest gardens and gather wild foods from the bush, rivers, and mangrove swamps. They carry produce and firewood from the gardens to the villages and cook the meals. Women also weave string bags and beat tapa. Men and women both prepare sago, often together.

Land Tenure. Low population density and a relatively moderate climate provide the Maisin of southern Collingwood Bay with a rich food base. Land passes down through the male line, although villagers frequently make gardens on the lands of their affines and matrilineal relations. Patricians also claim large areas of forest and grassland and occasionally Stretches of coast.

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