Culina - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Culina practice shifting slash-and-burn horticulture, which they supplement with hunting, fishing, and gathering. The most important crops are sweet manioc, bananas, and plantains. The most common animals hunted are collared peccaries, tapir, and deer. Fishing is an important source of protein when "real meat" is unavailable, and a wide range of wild fruits and vegetables provides considerable variety in the diet. Some Culina work for small-scale rubber-tapping operations or farms, where they earn money to purchase manufactured goods such as knives, metal pots, soap, shotguns, and ammunition, as well as sugar and salt. More isolated Culina earn small amounts of money by tapping rubber trees of their own or by selling or trading meat to Brazilian boats that sometimes pass by villages. Catholic missionaries in the region have encouraged the Culina to produce traditional handicrafts for sale, such as featherwork, hammocks, baby slings, and carved wooden figures. As yet these produce only small amounts of money. Overall, the Culina continue to maintain a largely subsistence economy; surpluses are small and irregular.

Industrial Arts. The Culina make a variety of craft items, including canoes and paddles, clay pots, and bows and arrows. Women are adept spinners and weavers of native cotton, producing hammocks and baby slings; they also weave baskets of palm fibers. Having become skillful seamstresses, women make almost all the clothes worn by their families. There is no metal or stone in the region, and the Culina have no traditional crafts using these materials.

Trade. Little trade appears to take place among the indigenous groups in this region. The Culina trade actively with Brazilians for manufactured items, however. Buying and selling are less common than barter: latex, meat, and traditional crafts are traded for manufactured goods.

Division of Labor. Men's and women's roles are sharply distinguished among the Culina. Men clear land for gardening, but women tend gardens and harvest their products. Men hunt to provide raw meat and fish, which women cook. Men serve as shamans and ritual leaders. Women's roles are thought of as domestic, located within the household or within the village and its immediate environs, whereas men's roles are thought of as extravillage, performed in the forest (as in hunting) or in the world of the spirits (as in shamanism). Men and women tend not to share the proceeds of their handicrafts or trade. For example, women who make feather ornaments or hammocks will trade them for metal pots that they consider their own property, and their husbands will trade latex or meat for, say, knives or shotgun ammunition that they consider their own.

Land Tenure. The Culina Madiha groups traditionally occupied more or less distinct areas, and any member of the group's village had access to land for horticulture and hunting. Gardens were owned by the senior adult man of the extended family, who acquired rights to the land by clearing it. Villages were moved perhaps every five to ten years, when new gardens had to be cleared farther away than people cared to walk. Today, under pressure from Brazilian settlers, many Culina groups are restricted to single, much smaller areas. Under Brazilian law these groups have exclusive rights to their traditional lands, but Brazil's National Indian Foundation (Fundação Nacional do Índio, FUNAI) has been slow to designate these areas. Like all indigenous Brazilian peoples, the Culina are technically wards of the Brazilian government.

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