Barama River Carib - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Before gold mining, the Barama River Carib were adapting to the equatorial rain forest with an essentially lithic technology. They combined hunting, fishing, and collecting with a seminomadic form of horticulture. Before extensive regional trade and a cash economy were introduced concomitently with mining activities, dispersed settlements tended to be closed with regard to patterns of obtaining and sharing subsistence resources. The Barama River Carib have been increasingly involved in a regional economy. Employment was available in gold mining from about 1940 to 1969. At first, Carib men cleared fields, hunted, and transported equipment and supplies for the gold seekers. In time, these Carib men performed more skilled mining tasks and became familiar with the need to keep work schedules, particularly when water had to be pumped continuously from the mine shaft. The Carib faced hardship when the mine closed in 1969. Aided by government agricultural cooperative programs, they have returned to slas-hand-burn horticulture in the rain forest.

Industrial Arts. Carib men make bows and arrows and baskets. Women make pottery. A utilitarian principle is emphasized in all crafts.

Trade. Trading between people from different households takes the form of direct exchange. Labor, food, and craft items are bartered or exchanged for money. During the period of mining, most exchanges were made through the mine's trade store, which later was maintained as a government store.

Division of Labor. A separation of tasks is generally practiced in the adaptation to the tropical forest. Men hunt and clear fields, construct houses, build canoes, make baskets, and plant crops. Cooperation among households principally involves the men's activities of field clearing, hunting, canoe making, and the like. Cooperation is expedient rather than necessary. As a result, patterns of cooperation lack permanence and explicitness. Women harvest the crops, gather edibles from the forest, prepare all food, sew, and tend children. Men and women cooperate to plant fields and poison streams for fish. With the introduction of the mining economy, the women in miners' households left aside most of their gathering and cultivating. In the company of a coresident mother or mother-in-law, these wives concerned themselves with cooking, sewing, and child rearing in their separate households.

Land Tenure. There is no land tenure among the Barama River Carib and no accumulation of capital in any significant form. From time to time, there are government proposals to create a reservation for the Barama River Carib.

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