The family was the basic socioeconomic unit and owned all the basic tools and implements, buildings, means of transport, and sled dogs. Hunting territories were not owned by individuals, the family, the clan, nor the community. Hunting and fishing were carried out freely, wherever one wanted. There were traditional rules, however, that regulated the use of hunting territory (especially in the lower Amur region) and prevented disputes. The absence of laws and disputes governing land use was a result of the small number of Nanai using a very large territory, although it was also explained by some writers as a product of the "communistic" outlook of the Nanai.
Economic differentiation developed early among the Nanai owing to the fur trade with the Manchus and Chinese. From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries there were trade fairs on the Sungari River, which were popular with the indigenous peoples of the region. Nanai traders served as middlemen.