Murik - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Subsistence is based on fishing and trade. Both men and women fish in the lakes and ocean, but women gather most of the shellfish from the mangroves. The staple starch is sago, obtained by trade with villages on the inland side of the lakes. Garden produce and pigs, used primarily for ritual feasts, are obtained from trade partners in coastal and lower river villages. Gardens are maintained by those who feel so inclined and are often pillaged by foraging children before the fruit is ripe. Murik engage in extensive commercial activities. They trade smoked fish, fresh shellfish, baskets, and shells for garden produce, betel nuts, tobacco, and pigs. Manufactured items such as pots, plates, and canoe logs are sought in exchange for baskets. The most prestigious trade involves nonmaterial goods such as carving motifs, basket designs, magic, songs, and dance complexes. Cash income is obtained through Remittances from relatives working in towns and through the sale of fish, shellfish, baskets, and tourist carvings in town Markets. The money is used for transportation (outboard motors and fuel), school fees, clothing, and small household items.

Industrial Arts. Murik men have a distinctive carving style. Many ritual and household objects are made of carved wood, including canoes, paddles, house posts, male and female figures, masks, food pounders, plates, and betel mortars. Women weave twill-plaited baskets or bags of various sizes decorated with colored and raised designs. Designs are owned by descent groups or by individuals and transmission of designs is carefully monitored. The baskets that are traded or sold to non-Murik and tourists usually carry designs designated for public use.

Trade. A history of extensive trade along the coast, river, and offshore islands has been documented from Bibliographic sources. Men and women have inherited trade partners in other villages with whom they maintain obligations over multiple generations. Trade for sago is tinged with hostility, but it goes on of necessity throughout the year. Trade with coastal and island villages is conducted as hospitality and confined to the dry season. Coastal and island trade activities occur in preparation for ritual performance.

Division oí Labor. There is a high degree of cooperation among men and women on behalf of the household and the descent group. Few tasks are exclusively male or female. In general, men's work includes fishing, carving, house building, maintaining coconut groves, organizing village affairs, and conducting overseas trade. Women's work includes cooking, fishing, processing the catch, basket weaving, primary responsibility for raising children, and selling in the market. Men and women collect firewood, maintain canoes, care for Children, and trade for sago.

Land Tenure. Several types of land are distinguished—villages, coconut plantations, gardens, and mangroves. Open lakes are fished by all Murik. Land and mangrove waters are owned by the eldest sibling of the senior generation. He or she inherits from one or both parents the right to regulate use of land on behalf of the sibling group. Access to various types of land is allocated according to a rule of primogeniture.

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