Mimika - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. In order of importance, major subsistence activities are: sago making; foraging; fishing; some slash-and-burn gardening of tobacco, bananas, and tubers (especially in upstream settlements); and hunting. Coconut palms are grown in all villages, but cash cropping is of minor importance. Industrial art is limited and controlled by Indonesian merchants. It concerns the supply of timber for the local mill and some ironwood for export purposes. Cash earnings are mainly dependent on migrant labor outside the district in urban centers. Up-to-date and reliable information is not available. Food production was part of a cycle of extensive and shorter ceremonies, but this rhythm has been interfered with by duties connected with government administration. Many villagers leave for the sago and fishing grounds on Mondays and return to the villages on Saturdays in order to attend church services. A substantial amount of work has to be done for the village, the school, and for payment of taxes. Timber provides some cash earnings, but migrant labor in urban centers is economically more important. Trade stores are owned by Chinese or Indonesian tradespeople.

Industrial Arts. Mimika material equipment is simple and adapted to a seminomadic way of life. Apart from implements, two types of canoes were manufactured—dugouts, used in river travel, and seagoing canoes with high, sharp bows.

Trade. Traditional trade was of secondary importance. It still concerns the exchange of canoes for the right of sago Production in West Mimika, where sago groves are scarce in the furthermost coastal areas. Inland people of Eastern Mimika trade tobacco to coastal communities. Tobacco was also obtained from Highland Papuans in exchange for inferior iron tools.

Division of Labor. The sexual division of labor functions as a device to institute a reciprocal state of interdependence between the sexes. Women play a major role in the production of sago, catching fish, foraging, collecting shellfish, cutting and transporting firewood, and preparing food. They also control the use of canoes, mats, bags, and the food supply. Men are the producers of canoes, tools, weapons, and implements for fishing and hunting; the construction of semiPermanent longhouses and village dwellings is also their responsibility. Men also do most of the gardening (though this is of minor importance) and are nowadays the wage earners. The greater part of ritual activities are performed and controlled by men, but elderly women wield remarkable power and also have much ritual knowledge. There is a "guild" of drummers/singers, and there are specialist wood-carvers of high repute.

Land Tenure. Since land tenure is an aspect of a flexible social organization in which power and authority are diffused, the rules allow for much variety. Also, territory boundaries are much more sharply defined with regard to waterways than to the land itself, owing to the vital role of canoes as a means of transport. Land rights are inalienable to strangers or foreigners, though such people may be permitted to use the land. Sago groves belong to groups of siblings, cousins, and their children, but the use of sago groves (like fishing grounds) is extended to kin and affines of the persons who claim possession. Men usually act as spokesmen, but women are extremely influential. Tidal creeks, which can be closed off with a weir for fishing purposes, are owned and controlled by sisters, female cousins, or a mother and her daughters. Gardens are usually owned by older married couples. Trees are subject to individual possession, either by men or women. Since kinship is strongly classificatory and includes relationships based on adoption, friendship, and other considerations, the actual use of land and creeks is fairly nonrestrictive and collective. Land disputes mainly occur between villages with adjoining territories.

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