Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The coconut—its flesh, fluid, embryo, certain types of husk, and (in famine) bud—was the staple of Tongarevan existence. In the absence of domesticated animals and all but a few game animals, marine resources were the principal source of protein. Reef fish were the most favored, but shellfish, flying fish, porpoises, and sharks also were taken. Dietary supplements included the aerial root tips and soft inner kernels of the pandanus.
Industrial Arts. The islanders manufactured baskets, cooking and eating utensils, backrests, sitting and sleeping mats, loincloths and skirts, canoes (including large war canoes), shell axes, nets, fishing lines, hooks, spears, and clubs.
Trade. There was no trade to speak of, either within the atoll or beyond it.
Division of Labor. There was some division of labor by age and sex. Young men and boys gathered and husked coconuts. Both men and women participated in fishing, but only men went turtling and deep-sea diving. While these folk were away at their daily tasks, children and old women remained at home, watching for raids on the coconut supply. At home, women did most of the portering and cooking, though men lit the fires, cooked turtles, and sometimes scraped coconuts. Women plaited mats, while men made canoes and weaponry. Both men and women participated in battle, though women—whose main task was deflecting and breaking incoming spears—were seldom deliberately harmed. Women seem to have done much of the child rearing.
Land Tenure. Palms and land were vested in individuals rather than groups, and, perhaps because of the atoll's Population density, they were highly valued and a major source of conflict. The ocean and lagoon apparently were common property resources, though reefs, shellfish grounds, and other submarine beds were exploited only by adjacent inhabitants.