Subsistence and Commercial Activities. At the time of the Spanish Conquest, some native groups of the Sierra Nevada constructed terraces for agricultural purposes, with retaining walls of boulders and stones, the remains of which can still be seen in many parts of present-day Kogi territory. At that time the staple food was maize, but when, during the following centuries, creole peasants pushed the Indians higher up into the mountains, the Kogi had to readapt; maize cultivation declined and was largely replaced by plantains, squashes, and tree crops. Game has become very scarce; people collect some beetles and river crabs and occasionally hunt birds or small rodents.
Industrial Arts. Kogi material culture is extremely simple. The men weave coarse cotton cloth for the entire family, but spinning may be done by both sexes. The women weave cotton or agave fibers into small carrying bags for personal articles; basket weaving is almost unknown. Household items such as benches, string hammocks, open-net bags, cooking vessels, gourd water jugs, gourd spoons, and wooden mortars are of coarse manufacture.
Trade. Trade relations have been going on for centuries. The Kogi manufacture primitive sugarcane presses and exchange or sell bricks of raw sugar to the Colombian lowland peasants who, in turn, provide the Indians with bush knives, cast-iron vessels, salt, sun-dried fish, steel needles, and similar items. In recent times some Kogi families have been growing coffee for sale in the lowlands. Wage labor is practically unknown.
Division of Labor. Both men and women work in the fields, help in house construction, and spin cotton thread. In other activities, however, a marked division along sex lines is observed. Weaving is a strictly male activity, and so are pottery making and coca planting. Carrying water, cooking, and laundering are female tasks, whereas the men procure firewood, clean the village premises, build bridges, and maintain the mountain trails, the fences, and the roof thatch. Most ritual activities are carried out by men, and women are forbidden to enter the temple or other ceremonial enclosures.
Land Tenure. All cultivated lands are privately owned. Hunting and gathering territories are communal property, but occasionally some wild-growing fruit trees have individual owners. Several years ago the Colombian government established a large Indian territory in the Sierra Nevada and began to buy up many small farms owned by encroaching creole settlers and returning them to the Indians. Lately, the Indians have been laying claim to many archaeological sites, which they consider to be a sacred heritage from Tairona times, and problems are arising between tradition-minded tribal authorities and government agencies in charge of prehistoric monuments.