Araweté - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Araweté are slash-and-burn horticulturists who depend heavily on hunting and collecting. The primary cultigen is maize, which is planted in the fertile anthropogenic black earth common in the Ipixuna region. The most important game animals are land turtles, peccaries, and armadillos. Fishing is important at the end of the dry season. Honey, Euterpe fruits, and Brazil nuts are the main gathered resources. The Araweté economy has a bimodal pattern: at the beginning of the wet season, just after maize is planted, villagers disperse in the forest for a three- to four-month period of trekking. In March the trekking groups reassemble for the green corn festival; the dry season is spent in the villages and dedicated to maize-related products and activities. The influence of the Indian post seems to be making the Araweté more sedentary; FUNAI is also stimulating the raising of rice (for subsistence) and cocoa (for cash). The introduction of shotguns and flashlights greatly changed hunting techniques. All foreign objects the Araweté now need (metal tools, ammunition, pots, etc.) are freely but sparingly distributed by FUNAI. The Araweté place a small amount of craft products on the tourist market, but prices paid by FUNAI, the sole legal intermediary, are not encouraging.

Industrial Arts. Crafts include featherwork, basketry, cotton weaving, and pottery. Canoes were not used until after contact. Stone axes, thought to be of divine origin, were found in the black-earth sites and used by the Araweté, who also got some iron tools in the old missionary village sites of the Bacajá area. The weapons are bows of tecoma hardwood and short wide-bladed arrows. Women's clothes are tubular pieces of woven cotton dyed with annatto.


Division of Labor. Men hunt and clear the planting sites; farming, although done by both sexes, is associated with women, who are considered the "masters" of maize fields. Both sexes fish and gather, cook, make basketry, and take care of the children. Women weave cotton and make pottery. The two activities that link Araweté society to other human or mythical beings are exclusively male: shamanism and war.


Land Tenure. Every individual may live, hunt, and cultivate wherever he or she pleases. A field, while bearing crops, is the joint property of those who worked in it. The Araweté territory, which like all lands occupied by indigenous groups in Brazil is in the national domain, is not demarcated yet; only in December 1987 the FUNAI "interdicted" (a fairly innocuous legal measure) in the name of the Araweté an area of 985,000 hectares.


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