Guahibo-Sikuani - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The basis of Sikuani subsistence is horticulture of bitter manioc, of which some fifty varieties are cultivated, as well as other crops like maize, sweet potatoes, sugarcane, and domestic garden cultigens like peppers. Hunting, fishing, and gathering contribute an essential part of the diet, especially during the dry season, when Sikuani families sometimes travel for weeks and find abundant resources along the rivers, where there is a concentration of fauna. Pigs and chickens have been raised for some time to be traded to Whites for clothing, tools, and other goods rather than as a source of food. Cattle raising on a small scale has developed more recently, having been begun with official aid. Work as ranch hands or in official positions as bilingual teachers and health promotors are sources of income for some people.

Industrial Arts. Although items of daily use are made by nonspecialists, basketry and pottery are more or less specialized crafts executed for trade and economic gain by people with artistic abilities. Woven trays, for example, are made with designs that have symbolic value and are desirable trade items. Hammocks made of cumare- or macanilla- palm fibers are sold or traded in White-managed shops.

Trade. At the time of contact, there existed an active trade that connected all the groups of the Orinoco plains with those of neighboring regions. The Guahibo exchanged their game and their gathered products, as well as items from faraway places, for the horticultural products of riverine groups. With population loss came the loss of regional specialization, and the groups diversified their economy.

Division of Labor. Felling and burning the fields to prepare for cultivation is communal male work. Hunting, fishing, house construction, and canoe making are also men's tasks. A man who wishes to marry is expected to be capable of weaving a manioc press and other basketry items that are given to women to perform their work. Women do the planting and harvesting and prepare food, especially griddle cakes from grated and leached bitter manioc. Pottery making is a typically feminine task.

Land Tenure. Only with the creation of reserves and protected territories is the notion of landownership beginning to develop.

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