Maring - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities . Maring subsistence is based upon slash-and-burn gardening, pig husbandry, and some hunting and gathering in the rain forest, as well as fishing—primarily for eels—in the rivers of the territory. Gardens are planted with taro, sweet potatoes, manioc, and bananas. Also grown are sugarcane, pandanus, and a variety of greens. Maize has been introduced to the region. Pig husbandry is of great importance, but Maring do not breed pigs domestically. Rather, all male pigs are castrated young in order to ensure that they will attain large size. Female pigs may breed with feral boars, but this is prevented whenever possible, again with an eye to assuring greater growth. Instead, pig herds are increased primarily through trade. Hunting and gathering also contribute to the subsistence economy, but to a markedly lesser extent. Nonetheless, hunting is considered to be a highly prestigious male activity. Eeling is important, as eels are a significant ritual food. In the past, Maring manufactured salt for trade.

Industrial Arts. Maring use simple technology: digging sticks, axes, and bush knives are the only gardening tools; bows and arrows and snares, as well as pits and deadfalls, are used in hunting; and spears, axes, and wooden shields complement the bows and arrows as weapons of war. Other items of local manufacture include net bags, aprons, loincloths, caps, waistbands, and armbands. Maring trade for steel tools, as they did for their earlier stone versions. Containers are made of hollowed gourds and bamboo tubes.

Trade. Much, if not most, circulation of goods is carried out through participation in relationships of exchange within the clan cluster, or between two clan clusters. However, Maring traditionally traded salt outside of Maring territory with peoples to their south in order to acquire stone tools, pigs, feathers, shells, and some furs. Most exchange relations, however, are between a man and his wife's agnates, his sisters' husbands' kin, his mother's agnatic kin, and the agnatic kin of his daughters' husbands. In recent years, interclan markets have been introduced. The items sold at these markets are principally foodstuffs, both raw and cooked, and while these markets are patterned after "modern" ones, they in fact simply provide a new forum for essentially balanced exchanges between individuals.

Division of Labor. Maring men fell trees, build houses and fences, hunt, and fish for eels. Women do the bulk of the gardening work, weeding, harvesting, and the burning off of used plots to clear them of refuse. Women and young children also handle the responsibilities of pig rearing, but men butcher the meat. Gardening is done in male-female pairs consisting of husband and wife, brother and sister, or daughter and widowed father. An individual will participate in several such pairs simultaneously. Child care is a woman's task.

Land Tenure. All gardening lands are held in the name of the clan cluster and subclan, and individuals ostensibly have access to that land only through membership therein. However, a nonmember of a clan cluster may be granted access to land on the basis of recent or historic marriage relations between the two clan clusters.

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