Wogeo - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Wogeo subsist through a combination of slash-and-burn hortiCulture, fruit and nut collecting, fishing, and shellfish collecting. The primary foods are taro, bananas, coconuts, yams, bread-fruit, sago, pawpaw fruit, and almonds. Wild pigs are hunted and domesticated pigs slaughtered and eaten, as are lizards and dogs. The climate is such that the horticultural cycle runs at a leisurely pace year-round, with little concern about food shortages. About 40 percent of the gardens are planted near the villages in the coastal belt that circles the island, with the other 60 percent planted farther inland on hilly slopes.

Industrial Arts. The Wogeo make dugout canoes, baskets, drums, bamboo flutes, fish nets, and various other tools, utensils, and ceremonial objects. Most notable are the large seagoing canoes made from whole tree trunks and decorated with carved figureheads.

Trade. Trade is primarily with neighboring island societies and societies on the mainland of Papua New Guinea. Every five or six years about six Wogeo canoes head out on extended trading expeditions loaded with almonds and other nuts, fishing nets, and small, woven baskets. They return with clay pots, produce bags, bamboo for flutes, and ornaments such as shell rings and pigeon feathers. In between the Wogeo expeditions, other island groups launch similar trips, which include stops at Wogeo. These trading expeditions are an important activity on Wogeo and involve communal building of large seagoing canoes, accumulation of the trade goods, magical ceremonies, and gift exchanges between trading partners.

Division of Labor. Division of labor is mainly by sex, although some men enjoy increased status because they are better craftsmen or manifest better control of magical forces. Women care for the children (men have almost no contact with infants), keep house, cook, plant taro, make their clothes, and collect shellfish. Men do the heavy gardening work, gather nuts, build houses, make most tools and utensils, catch fish, and make their own clothes. Despite the task segregation, men and women cooperate closely in the planning and working of the gardens, although their lives are mostly separate otherwise.

Land Tenure. Each district controls the forest area in its boundaries with all district residents having equal access to the forest and its products. Entry by a nonresident into the forest often leads to suspicion of adultery or sorcery and to vengeance raids. Rights to marshland are shared by village residents and rights to the beach are divided among the two or three clans in each village. Every man has the right to build a house in the village nearest the gardens he has a right to cultivate. This village is usually his father's, as gardens are Usually inherited patrilineally. Gardens are allotted to villages and clans, although once a man works a plot he "owns" it. Men generally "own" between ten and twenty garden plots. Ownership of a plot rests as much on paying tribute to the headman and clan inheritance rules as on individual claims based on use. All objects are owned by individuals and it is considered a serious breach of etiquette to use someone else' s property without their permission.

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