Tangu - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Tangu are primarily subsistence farmers who practice swidden or slash-and-burn horticulture. Their staple crops include numerous varieties of yams, taro, and bananas, planted in rotation and supplemented with sago and breadfruit, especially during December and January, which are months of relative scarcity of the primary foods. These main crops are supported by sugarcane, coconuts, pitpit, gourds, beans, squashes, and greens. Maize, tapioca, sweet potatoes, melons, pumpkins, tomatoes, and other vegetables have been recently introduced. Pigs and chickens are kept domestically, the latter mainly for their feathers. Tangu forage in the forest, and they also hunt wild pigs, cassowaries, lizards, possums, cuscus, wallabies and other small marsupials, and birds. Land animals are usually tracked with the aid of dogs, or caught in snares or traps. Birds are usually shot with bows and arrows. Fish were traditionally netted with hand nets by women, speared by men, or stunned in pools by using poison roots. This life-style of basic subsistence farming, supplemented by some hunting and gathering, is also augmented by migrant or occasional labor for cash.

Industrial Arts. Tangu produce a variety of utilitarian objects used in their everyday lives, including banana-fiber underskirts, pandanus-fiber skirts, woven-cane bands and Personal adornments, and pandanus-fiber cord, from which they fashion string bags and fishing nets. They manufacture slit gongs, used for signaling public announcements, and traditional musical instruments including hand drums and Jew's harps. Their only commercial manufactures are clay pots, made with the coil technique, and string bags. These are traded within Tangu and also sold for cash.

Trade. Tangu have extensive trading relations, both among themselves and with neighboring people. Two of the four Tangu neighborhoods specialize in clay-pot making and two specialize in string bag and sago production. These items are traded within Tangu and are also sold to outsiders. The string bags and sago are sold mainly to people from the coast, while the clay pots are sold both to coastal inhabitants and to people from the hinterland. Other traditional items of Exchange include hunting dogs, tobacco, and betel nuts. More recently, the mission trade store stocks goods of European manufacture, which are sold or exchanged for local products and services. These items are often exchanged again, typically with hinterland neighbors.

Division of Labor. As in most tribal societies, Tangu division of labor is based on age and sex. Women cook, weed, look after young children, and do certain craftswork, such as making string bags. Men hunt, build houses and shelters, and do other craftswork, such as wood carving. Garden work is carried on by both sexes, although the sexes once again perform slightly different tasks, with men doing most of the heavy felling, clearing, and digging and women doing most of the daily carrying, weeding, and cleaning.

Land Tenure. Land can be "inherited" through either male or female relatives, but the practices governing the actual transfer of land are extremely flexible. Each individual has "claims" on land belonging to his or her relatives, Depending on the closeness of those relatives, and the strengths of the competing claims of others. Such "claims," recognized to a greater or lesser extent by the community, are always greater when actually exercised. Particularly strong structural claims can be made by sons on their father's claims, by nephews on their mother's brother's claims, and by husbands and wives on each other's claims. In general, the Tangu have ample land, and they tend to gravitate toward those areas where their claims are most easily exercised and their personal prospects best.

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