Ulithi - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Simple hortiCulture dominates subsistence activities, although fish and other sea foods are more highly prized in the diet. The chief plant food is the coconut, consumed in many forms, followed by breadfruit, true taro and pseudotaro, bananas, and from time to time squashes and sweet potatoes. There is some gathering, especially of wild berries and other fruits. Pigs are valued but are few because of the scarcity of suitable feed. Chickens are more abundant, being the predominant domestic animal. Birds are occasionally trapped for consumption. Highly desirable but limited by religious and political taboos is the giant sea turtle, Chelonia mydas. With the rise of a cash economy, originally instigated by the manufacture of copra and then enormously expanded by U.S. welfare allotments and other grants, the traditional economy has been reduced to a shambles.

Industrial Arts. There are part-time specialists, especially canoe and house carpenters, who are exclusively men. Women weave garments on a true loom, probably introduced long ago from Indonesia. Weaving materials are made of banana fiber, hibiscus fiber, or a combination of the two, although these textiles have largely been supplanted by Commercial cloth. There is no pottery making, due to the absence of clay, but some pottery is imported from nearby Yap. Prior to the introduction of iron tools, such tools as adzes, knives, and scrapers were made from shells or coral. Since the advent of traders the chief commercial activity has been the manufacture of copra, with some seasonal gathering of trochus shells for the foreign market.

Trade. While there is some internal trade between Individuals, most of it is external and somewhat ritualistic, being carried on in a complex system involving exchange with Yap and the islands of the Woleai, almost as far east as Truk. Although Ulithians are regarded as being of low caste by Yapese, because they live on out-lying islands, Ulithi receives more from Yap than it gives, especially in the form of food-stuffs and large timber for constructing canoes. A common form of exchange, largely political, is the giving of fine mats used as men's and women's clothing.

Division of Labor. Sex plays a part in dividing household and village activities: men mainly do the fishing and carpentry, while women cultivate gardens, harvest wild plants and shore fish, weave, and almost exclusively raise children and perform most domestic work, including cooking.

Land Tenure. Land is held in various ways. In theory the six landownership chiefs of the atoll have the right of eminent domain. In practice land is owned by lineages in a fee-simple system, which is administered by the lineage's chief. It is broken up into plots that are worked by family groups with Usufruct rights that are tantamount to ownership.

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