Selepet - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The people practice horticulture, with the main crops being varieties of sweet potatoes, taro, yams, and pandanus. They also grow coconut palms and sago near the coast. Wild pigs and wallabies are hunted in the coastal grasslands and smaller marsupials in the mountain forests. Pig husbandry has been practiced from aboriginal times, and more recently the missionaries have introduced cattle. They also introduced many European vegetables and other tropical fruits, so that today the people supplement their diet with maize, cabbages, European potatoes, tomatoes, pineapples, oranges, and papayas. The main cash crops are copra along the coast and coffee at the higher altitudes.

Industrial Arts. There never has been a specialization of labor, so that every person can produce the necessities of life from local resources, though with differing degrees of skill and success. By knocking out all but the last node in a length of bamboo they make containers for carrying water or tubes for baking food in the open fire. Men use adzes to make wooden basins and they carve bows from black palm. Lengths of wild cane are used for arrow shafts, and points are crafted from bamboo, black palm, or animal bones. The lack of feathers and of weighted arrow points contributes to poor accuracy, but points made of bone are reputed to be more accurate because the bones of the quarry attract the bone arrow point. Women weave string bags from twine rolled from hemp, make skirts from a long-bladed indigenous grass, and plait armbands from rattan.

Trade. The Selepet people were pivotal to the trade routes connecting the hinterland and coastal peoples. In exchange for tobacco, taro, bows and arrows, dogs, and pigs, they received fish, coconuts, seashells, lime, wooden bowls, clay pots, obsidian, and boars' tusks.

Division of Labor. Traditionally, members of each sex manufactured the artifacts concerned with their roles. Men made the loincloths and cloaks of armor from the bark of an indigenous tree, items for hunting and warfare, lime gourds, and spatulas. Women made grass skirts and string bags. Today, the men clear the land and dig the soil, and the women break up the clods of soil and prepare the garden for planting. Men build the garden fences to keep out the wild pigs and generally care for the domestic pigs and cattle. Women draw water and carry anything that fits into a string bag, such as infants, piglets, and garden produce. Men carry the heavier items such as beams, planks, and grown pigs.

Land Tenure. With the exception of land purchased by the government or the mission, all land is owned by the patrilineal clans. If a man's clan lacks sufficient arable land, he and his wife often prepare their gardens on land belonging to her clan.

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