Truk - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. In the past, swidden gardens with dry taro, turmeric, and sugarcane were few and small. Breadfruit, supplemented by wet taro, was the staple. Being seasonal, breadfruit was preserved by fermenting in pits. Copra has become the only export. Fishing was important. Okinawans developed commercial fishing during Japanese rule; and some commercial fishing on a small scale was continued by the Trukese after World War II. Under American rule, the principal source of cash income was Government employment as teachers and program administrators. Tourism was unimportant.

Industrial Arts. Traditional crafts included: making outrigger paddle canoes; building houses; woodworking (to make bowls, storage chests, spears); gardening; cordage (to make rope, string, slings); working stone (for sling stones), shell (for adz blades), and coral (for breadfruit pounders); preparing medicines; loom weaving with hibiscus and banana fibers (to make loin clothes, wraparound skirts, shirts, mosquito canopies); plaiting (of baskets, mats); and other leaf working (for thatch, sun hats). Sewing arts and dressmaking have replaced weaving. New arts include: motor maintenance (of cars and outboards); boat building; bookkeeping; school teaching; government administration; and nursing and medical practice.

Trade. In traditional times, the atoll people around Truk traded with Pohnpei, Yap, and the Mariana Islands. The major export from Truk to the atolls was processed turmeric in the form of sticks that were used as a cosmetic. The major imports were woven pandanus mats and sennit cord, both of which were also produced on Truk. Sometimes, important men on Truk would trade for outrigger canoes or contract with men on atolls to make the canoes for them. Men from the atolls were also sometimes retained to sail the canoes of Trukese men.

Division of Labor. Traditionally, men gardened, cooked and processed food in bulk (in the earth oven), did deepwater fishing, engaged in war and public affairs, and practiced the arts of canoe and house building and of wood, shell, and stone working. Women wove, plaited mats, prepared meals (as distinct from food in bulk), did inshore fishing, and took main responsibility for child care. Men and women have both entered into school teaching, clerical work, and administration.

Land Tenure. Land was held privately both by individuals and matrilineal, corporate descent groups. Rights in undeveloped space, productive soil, trees, and gardens were separable. When soil and breadfruit trees were given in grant, the grantor retained residual rights and the grantee acquired provisional rights. Grantors and grantees could be either Individuals or corporations. Full rights went to the survivor on the death or extinction of the other.

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