Palikur - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. As with numerous other tribes of Guiana, fishing has always been of prime importance to the Palikur. From 1942 on, horticulture, which had been neglected for many years, began once again to be practiced. Hunting and fishing are complementary subsistence activities. Fishing is done with bows and arrows, harpoons, and cotton fishing lines with hooks. Fishing with timbó poison is slowly falling into disuse. Shotguns are used for hunting, and in horticulture, iron tools are used.

Manioc is the principal cultivated plant, but sweet potatoes, sugarcane, peppers, gourds, and cotton are also grown. From the Europeans the Palikur have adopted papayas, mangoes, citrus trees, and coffee. Maize, a traditional cultivar, is rarely grown today. Rice was introduced by the SPI but its cultivation is also rare because of the abundance of rats in the area. Bitter manioc was traditionally used in the preparation of flat cakes and beer. The Palikur learned to make roasted manioc flour from the Creoles of French Guiana and the Blacks of the Rio Cunani. It is processed by using a wooden grater with metal chips, cylindrical cassava squeezers for the extraction of manioc juice, wooden troughs for stirring the mass, and clay ovens or imported iron ovens for roasting. Until the end of the nineteenth century, the main commercial surplus was roasted manioc flour. In the 1940s and 1950s the commercialization of alligator skins took first place, for example, among the Uaçá Galibí and the Karipúna. This trade diminished because of the near-extinction of these animals.

Industrial Arts. Palikur material culture includes basketry, pottery, and objects of wood, bone, feathers, and cotton seeds. The Palikur use plaiting and coiling techniques in the manufacture of large carrying and storage baskets, fans, and manioc squeezers. Pottery for daily and ceremonial use is simple and variously decorated. Wood is used in the manufacture of weapons, small dugouts, paddles, mortars, troughs, clubs, zoomorphic benches made of one piece, and musical instruments. From the time that hammocks became unfashionable, cotton thread has been used only for ornamentation.

Trade. Commercial relations between the Palikur and the Europeans began to intensify around the beginning of the eighteenth century, with an exchange of products from the forest and rivers for manufactured goods (e.g., tools, harpoons, glass beads, clothes). For many years after the French-Portuguese Dispute was over, the Palikur continued to prefer negotiating with the Creoles from French Guiana. Nowadays, they deal with both Creoles and Brazilians, including FUNAI agents.

Division of Labor. Men fish, hunt, and prepare the land for planting. They make wooden objects, baskets, and feather ornaments. Women make pottery, spin cotton, harvest the crops of the gardens, and prepare manioc flour and beer. Both sexes make reed mats. Formerly, only men paddled canoes, either with poles or paddles, an activity today also performed by women.

Land Tenure. The territory originally occupied by the Palikur, located in the lower and central portion of the area drained by the Araguari, Amapá, Cunani, Calçoene and Cassiporé rivers (which flow into the Atlantic Ocean), was subject to continual variation because of the sedimentation laid down by the current of the Amazon River. The Palikur therefore lived scattered in several areas occupied by their clan units. A similar situation still obtains on the Rio Urucauá, where the villages are removed from each other, on tongues of land in the interior of swampy areas. Each family's claim to its houses and planted fields is respected by the others. Between 1977 and 1981 FUNAI identified and demarcated the boundaries of a common area for the Palikur, Uaçá Galibí (Galibí-Marawone), and Karipúna, with an area of 434,660 hectares, including the major portion of the Uaçá-Curipi-Urucaua Basin. The lands recognized and used by the Palikur have the Rio Urucauá as their axis and extend midway between the Uaçá and Curipi rivers.


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