Tauade - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Tauade are swidden horticulturalists whose main source of food is the sweet potato, of which they grow at least twenty-two varieties. They also grow bananas, sugarcane, some yams, and a little taro. Pandanus nuts, however, are a very important supplement to their diet, since they can be preserved by smoking. Pigs are kept, roaming in the forest and bush, often destroying gardens, and returning to their owners' homes at night for a meal of sweet potatoes. Gardens are prepared when the rains cease, and strong fences are constructed around them to keep out the pigs. The ground for gardens is cleared by fire and, nowadays, with steel axes. In the past, stone adzes and wooden digging sticks were the only tools. The preferred area for gardens is the secondary rather than the primary forest, but grassland is seldom used. There is an ample supply of land, the population density being approximately 7.7 persons per square kilometer. The pandanus tree is the main source of house-building materials: its outer bark is easily stripped off for planks; its leaves, when dry, are an ideal roofing material; and its aerial roots supply tough bindings for the framework of the house. It is likely that hunting—for small animals, cassowaries, and pigs—and collecting were much more Important in the past than they are today.

Industrial Arts. In the past, stone was used to make adzes and bark-cloth beaters. Stone has been replaced by steel, and bark cloth by imported textiles. String bags are still made from local plant fibers. No pottery was made, and green bamboo tubes were the only cooking vessels. Bows were made from black palm, while bamboo is used for tobacco pipes and as a simple drum, sounded by dropping the end of the tube on the ground. In general, the traditional material culture was extremely simple.

Trade. There was little or no contact with the tribes on the south coast of Papua, but feathers were traded for various shells—and, later, steel—along a route through Fuyughe country that ended at the upper reaches of the Waria River in New Guinea. Steel tools were already being used in the Aibala Valley at the time of Egidi's visit in 1906.

Division of Labor. Men are responsible for felling trees, clearing land for gardens, erecting fences, climbing the pandanus trees to cut down the nuts, and house building. Men plant taro, yams, sugarcane, bananas, and tobacco. Women plant sweet potatoes, and most of the work in the gardens is done by women, who also carry the harvested pandanus nuts home in their string bags and collect dried pandanus leaves to bring to a hamlet where a new house is being built. Women also care for the pigs.

Land Tenure. There are roughly demarcated areas of land belonging to each clan, and it is said that the clan ancestors who first cleared the forest thereby established their ownership of the land and passed on these rights to their descendants. But permission to use clan land has been given to many cognates, affines, and friends over the course of time, and this practice has thus also established inheritable rights of use. Customary rights to make gardens on the land of a clan that is not one's own need to be exercised from time to time if they are to be respected. In practice, therefore, since there is an abundance of land and since use rights have been so diffused, people are able to make gardens with considerable freedom. Gardens are made by groups of friends, and often different groups will be involved in making gardens simultaneously. There are no clearly bounded plots of land owned by individuals that can be inherited. Rights of use in land are also transmitted through women, so that men may make use of the land rights of their wives and mothers. Pandanus trees are owned and inherited in a totally different manner from land. Here the laws of ownership hold—as opposed to rights of use—and the model of hereditary, clearly demarcated plots of land can be applied quite realistically. The pandanus forests are composed of many named areas, and within these areas are the plots of the owners marked by Cordyline at strategic intervals.

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